Development of new software that will allow robots to "talk" with people is taking place at the University of Aberdeen.
Robots now carry out tasks in a range of industries, from decommissioning nuclear plants to maintaining railway lines. But without continuous human guidance mistakes can be made.
AdvertisementOne of the main intentions of the new project is to increase understanding between humans and automated systems. It could ultimately lead to human/robot business meetings.
"We want to allow humans to be more trusting of robots by opening up a communication channel where the machine can explain to the human why they did what they did," the BBC quoted Dr Wamberto Vasconcelos, who is leading the research at the University of Aberdeen's School of Natural and Computing Sciences, as saying.
The system will combine what are called formal argumentation techniques with Natural Language Generation (NLG), which essentially converts complex information and data into text summaries.
"This is not about shouting at each other but offering reasons for an argument," explained Dr Vasconcelos.
"It enables the systems and a human to discuss a plan before a task - such as dismantling a nuclear plant - is undertaken," he explained.
The human will be able to interrogate the system, asking it to provide reasons for its actions or to offer additional information.
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) has awarded a 1.1m-dollar grant for the project and the team hopes to have prototypes ready in a year.
Industrial partners on the project include Sellafield, the National Nuclear Laboratory, BAE Systems and Network Rail.