The new film CHAPPiE, starring Hugh Jackman, Dev Patel, and Sigourney Weaver opens everywhere in theaters March 6, 2015.  The film is about a robot created by humanized intelligence, and once CHAPPiE figures out human behavior, the authorities begin to see him as a danger to mankind and order and they will stop at nothing to ensure that CHAPPiE is the last of his kind.  BGN briefly interviewed Dr. Ayanna Howard, who earned her B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Brown University, her M.S.E.E. from the University of Southern California, and her Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Southern California.  Her area of research is centered around the concept of humanized intelligence.

Humanized intelligence is the process of embedding human cognitive capability into the control path of autonomous systems.

With the upcoming film and its concept of using the idea of humanized intelligence to tell its story, I was curious to know more about it and went to the expert!


Dr. Ayanna Howard



Jamie: What first piqued your interest in humanized intelligence?

Dr. Howard: I was interested in creating the Bionic Woman based off the TV series.  I wanted to see robots conform to a person and see moving parts mimicking one another in various ways.  We as human beings have the blueprint on how to master humanized intelligence in robots.

Jamie: Wow. It’s funny that you mention the TV show the Bionic Woman, I was actually named after the lead character Jaime Sommers. So we have that in common. 

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Dr. Howard: (laughs) 

Jamie: Is there a verified fear or argument for limiting the continuous advancements in that area due to what we see in movies where the machine starts to think for itself and not adhere to commands?

Dr. Howard: There shouldn’t be a fear.  With new technology, there should some consideration how it should be used and we need to facilitate a conversation.  The conversation is starting and there are a number of groups scrutinizing the protocol.  This is both on the government side and the national side.

Jamie: How important do you find robotics research is to modern society?

Dr. Howard: One of the most important things are because we are living much longer, is trying to grasp how do we maintain a long-standing life?  How can we provide resources to developing nations?  And how can we take this information and put it to good use?  That is what we aim to research.

Jamie: In your line of work is there many women of color? Why or why not?

Dr. Howard: There are not.  And in robotics, it’s rare.  But I think the conversation in the last five years has a cause of concern, and I think there is a shift that is happening.  We are seeing it happen slowly, and it will grow.

Jamie: Any suggestions on how WoC can bridge the STEM divide and become involved with this kind of research?

Dr. Howard: I believe it starts in middle school.  Girls are excited about engineering as much as anyone else.  Encouraging them and allowing them to see that there are careers out there waiting for them.  Using peer pressure in a positive and supportive way to know that they have opportunities and see other women who look like them working in the field.

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The film CHAPPiE comes out March 6, 2015!  Be sure to also check out BGN’s giveaway of free swag from the movie!