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Last Week in AI #65

AI-powered background checks, social robots for dogs, and more!

Last Week in AI #65

Image credit: James Bareham / Vox/Recode

Mini Briefs

Beware of these futuristic background checks

Automated background checks are becoming more common in the hiring process, especially for gig and contract workers. These services typically check for criminal records, but some use AI-powered tools to “scan through resumes, analyze facial expressions during video job interviews, compare criminal records, and even judge applicants’ social media behavior.” The expansive applications of automated screening technologies raise important concerns about privacy and bias, as they suffer from generalization and dataset biases like any other data-driven AI model. Negative backslash has already prompted companies like Predictim, which offered an AI service to “score potential babysitters based on their social media,” to close down.

Under current regulations, job applicants have to first consent to these background checks, and they have the right to contest incorrect information. However, “there is no guarantee […] that any corrections will be made in time for a person to remain in consideration for a particular position.”

Dogs Obey Commands Given by Social Robots

Researchers from Yale University’s Social Robotics Lab performed experiments on how well dogs receive commands from voices of non-human sources, such as speakers and humanoid robots. They showed that “dogs paid significantly more attention to the robot than the speaker,” and that dogs “obeyed the sit command over 60 percent of the time when it came from the robot, but less than 20 percent of the time when it came from the speaker.”

To help the dogs become more comfortable with the robot, “the dogs’ guardians were instructed to interact with the robot, talking to it and making eye contact.” Such social cues may have encouraged the dogs to pay more attention to the robot. Future research can help explain exactly what factors, such as a robot’s movements, expressions, and voice, affect dogs’ perception of the robot and how to make more effective social robots for dogs.

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