Rise of the Machines – The Progress of Robotics
Just how advanced is our world? We’ve seen the sci-fi movies and absorbed the Japanese poptek culture. Now let’s take a look at the futuristic science…
Just how advanced is our world? We’ve all seen movies like A.I. Artificial Intelligence and I Robot, depicting worlds in which advanced humanoid robots are created to do our biding. For decades pop culture has encouraged us to imagine a world in which robots can cook, clean, teach, and even fall in love with humans. Japanese pop culture in particular is filled with the imagery of friendly bots in countless anime shows and manga books. Yet, the idea of robotics has always remained a mad scientist’s dream of future worlds.
Nevertheless, thanks to recent technological advancements, the world of robotics seems to be leaping straight out of manga books and into the real world. It seems artificial intelligence is not as far fetched an idea as some may think. A surprising number of humanoid robot models have emerged in recent years. While these novel technologies currently serve as little more than entertainment, in time they could prove to achieve a wide variety of tasks in our homes, battlefields, factories, and even space stations.
One of today’s top innovations is Asimo, a robot created by Honda. Considered to be one of the world’s leading robots, Asimo has the ability to run, walk, climb stairs, and respond to simple voice commands. In contrast, Actroid, developed by Osaka University and manufactured by Kokoro Company Ltd, is one of the world’s most human like robots in appearance. The Actroid robot has the ability to create human expressions and moves with smoother gestures than some of it’s competitors. (Check out the Youtube videos for the Actroid-F telepresence robot. It’s designed to mimic the movements of a human being through a webcam. It’s intriguing to the point of creepiness when this robot model frowns, blinks, and smiles).
Though realistically the time for truly efficient walking, talking, and reasoning humanoid robots has yet to come, robots are already vacuuming our carpets, heading into combat, and even assisting doctors in medical procedures. Darpa, a research and development office for the U.S. Department of Defense, is working on the development of a number of interesting (and somewhat alarming) new projects including exoskeleton robotic suits for soldiers, insect robot spies, advanced artificial intelligence, and super computers. This organization in conjunction with a number of others including the U.S. Institute of Health and the U.S. National Science Foundation, are also working to create “near human” robots that can independently perform a vast amount of tasks from conducting surgeries to harvesting food supplies.
A real life C3PO model is currently being developed to match the human intellect. What’s the plan? Begin by installing toddler-like intelligence, to be followed by a utilization of programmed learning abilities and human instruction to create a bot that can learn and be taught, just like a human. Merge Asimo’s moving capabilities, the realistic look of the Actroid, and the intelligence of a C3PO model into one, and you’ll have a walking, talking, free thinking robot within a matter of decades. However, it’s most likely that any major implementations of robotics will primarily take place within our militaries before they hit the consumer market.
But perhaps one of the more alarming discoveries was found by researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology, who have taught robots how to lie. Ronald Arkin and Alan Wagner at Georgia Tech were able to achieve this by essentially teaching a robot to play hide and seek. By forming a fake trail of knocked over markers for its robot counterpart to find, their robot was able to successfully fool its counterpart 75% of the time. Is it just me or does anyone else think teaching robots to lie could have possible apocalyptic implications?
From a realistic viewpoint, it would be many years before humanoid robots or personal robots would ever be developed, introduced, and adopted by the masses. However with the rapid rate of technological growth, it’s becoming far less a matter of science fiction and more a real possibility for future generations. One can’t help but wonder if such pursuits may snowball into future problems rather than solutions.
Whatever the case, the race for personal robots is underway and the next decade promises to bring about immense advancements. Thus, it seems we have two options: we can accept robots into our lives with open arms, marveling at the genius of humanity; or we could side with the likes of The Matrix’s Morpheus. I for one think it’s time to call in The Terminator saviour John Connor. John, if you’re out there it may be time to step forward, before things get out of hand!