When Is a Robot Not Mechanical? When It's an Android
Made of silicone and rat heart cells, the Medusoid engineered jellyfish's muscles contract like a real jellyfish when placed in liquid and shocked. (Source: California Institute of Technology/Harvard University)
Regarding definitions, I agree it's complicated. Since the technology is changing, so are the terms and their use and meaning. We've read about androids, implied to be human by their name, for decades in science fiction. But until very recently, the technology wasn't available to combine mechanics, electronics and living tissue. Now it is, and so far it doesn't look human at all: it looks like a jellyfish and some other things we'll be reporting on soon. But the only term we've got is android, so that may have to do for awhile until we come up with a better one that doesn't imply human form. As I commented in another thread, general dictionaries are good for defining broad, commonly used vocabulary terms, but not at all useful for fast-moving, highly specialized fields like science and technology. Wikipedia is usually a lot more reliable. Here's what it says: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robot
About misnomers, I agree; my pet-peeve is the marketing ploy that misguides public thinking down their agenda's pathway: (Android; Hybrid; i-anything); --- to the point where an entire generation doesn't understand the meaning, yet they all think You're the idiot who doesn't understand.
But I digress ,,, Reno at Anthrobotic has addressed the Name-Game issue quite well, so I give that topic over to Reno, and read intently the subject-matter jungle of uncharted territory he's entering.
Meanwhile, back to the point. Combining engineering materials with once-living tissue and literally bringing them to life ,,, well, its literally Dr. Frankenstein, and its happening in real life nearly 2 centuries after Mary Shelley penned the original story in 1817. Remember it was electricity that brought the being to life. Science mimicking Science Fiction, yet again. Fascinating, Ann. Looking forward to additional posts on this topic.
Yes, there does seem to be an explosion of robotics going in a surprising variety if directions, Ann. I get the impression that developments in robotics has accelerated tremendously in just the last five or six years. Maybe it just that I'm aware of it lately.
Rob, I think it's not just your awareness, but a definite explosion, with several trends coming together and interacting, including open source software, cheaper and better electronics (such as cameras and MEMS gyros and other sensors), and the biology angle we're starting to see more of.
Hmm. I didn't realize open source software was part of the development process of these robots, Ann. I'm sure that's hugely helpful. At any rate, we seem to be in some golden age for developments in robots.
Ann, great article and I loved the video. Though crude, the movement was much more lifelike than I anticipated. My mind reels at the possible applications to real-life biological systems. I expect the field of bio-ethics to explode in the next 10 years as we humans grappled with these developments. As you say, this is the stuff of Science Fiction staring us right in the face. Exciting to say the least.
Ann, what are some of the other trends driving developments in robotics? I would imagine advances in motion control is a factor. From you articles, it also sounds like funding at universities is helping. Military funding also seems to be a factor. The filling of specific needs seems to be less of a factor. But I may be wrong about that.
In a line of ultra-futuristic projects, DARPA is developing a brain microchip that will help heal the bodies and minds of soldiers. A final product is far off, but preliminary chips are already being tested.
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