The concept of robots having a personality and awareness is deeply disturbing, primarily for noe reason. A robot without a processor and a whole lot of software is just a remote control servo device. So, as we have seen, robots consist to a very large extent as a lot of software with some mechaniccal I/O. More and more of the robot is software, we can all see that, and that is where the problem is. Most of that code is written by programmers, who are people who, aside from having that skill set needed to write code, are mostly quite different from normal people. Stop and consider that, and you will certainly agree that it is true. Programmers are not normal people. I am not asserting that they are bad or devious, but the fact is that they think in an entirely different way than the majority of folks think. Every time i deal with almost anything containing a processor I am reminded that programmers think differently than I do.
I am asserting that we really would be poorly advised to give any mechanical realization to the way programmers think. Just consider how our country would be if it were controlled by the likes of Bill Gates and the Microsoft hordes. If the concept of an existance like that is not disturbing, probably you have not adequately considered it.
NOTE: This is not to be considered a slam at Microsoft, but I don't wish to have them any more involved with my life.
While there are no immediate plans to introduce FRIDA as a commercial product, it does demonstrate a commitment to the technology and specifically developing strategies and solutions that would allow robots to work closely with humans rather than in isolated robotic cells.
Design News did a story a couple years ago about GM's partnership with NASA on upper torso, humanoid robots. The long term vision was to use them in automotive and aerospace applications to take over simple, repetitive, or especially dangerous tasks on places such as the International Space Station. Maybe we need to do a follow-up story
Here is a link to the NASA site for more information:
Naperlou makes a good point about (not) seeing the need for humanoid robots, but I would point to the iPad as an example of how marketing can create a need where none might be there. (Convertible laptops and tablets failed prior to the iPad. One can argue that they weren't fully baked when they first appeared in 2002. My personal take is that Microsoft paved a path, which Steve Jobs later exploited.) I think it will be the same thing with robots.
HBJimmy says that the market drives these things. I think that's part of the dynamic in Japan. It can't just be that the engineers who design the robots want that, er, unusual look. It must be that they think there will be customers for those things.
My guess is that there will eventually be 'all the above' so far as robots are concerned.
The best use I can imagine for humanoid models will be as health care providers. Although I hope that humans will still control the process, and that family members will actually visit their sick and aging relatives... it might be a great relief for some to have a robot that looks like and is programmed to interact like a family member.
24 hr a day health care provided by a well loved and patient surrogate-bot could be in the future... Heck, it could even be that one bot can don many faces, providing a range of personas to be interacted with...
Although there are many problems with this kind of blurring of the lines between human and robot I think that we are eventually going to cross pretty much every line we can think of, and some that we can't yet imagine.
I guess it depends on the function. Google "korean prison robot". The thing looks like a friendly child's toy (but bigger) . May be if TSA agents looked like the prison guards in Korea people would just be amused by being groped by a cute toy instead of th thugs we have now. Seems to me that a "prison" robot should look threatening. If I ever go to jail I hope it's in Korea. They must be really nice places to live if the guards look like cartoon characters.
I assumed we were talking about a more advanced "robot" than a gorified cash register (ATM).
Let's replace the teller in general with a robot. I would like to talk to a face when I discuss and establish my accounts and make loans. Plus I have a hearing problem and I need to speech read. Save the face!
I'm not so sure a humanoid appearance is necessary for automated services. Again, I used the analogy of the automated teller machine. This device has been magnificently successful, replacing countless human tellers. Many people prefer it to a human teller. And it has no human attributes. I think arbitrary human attributes are creepy.
Humanoid robots that could potentially be used in the future for applications such as automotive assembly are being developed by a joint GM/NASA partnership, and ABB has a concept humanoid robot called FRIDA. Interesting stuff working through the complexities of robots that could implement safety systems that would enable them to work closely with human workers.
I am not sure I agree that having a humanoid robot drive the car or the tractor is useful. We really are not short of humans. Actually, the trend in farm machinery (tractors and combine) is that they can be set on autopilot and basically drive themselves once they are programmed. I think we will see the machines have more of an ability to do things themselves with or without a human. Another example would be aircraft with an autopilot.
I, personally, do not see much of a need for human-like robots. I guess I have read too many science fiction books on the topic (including the I, Robot series). It really reminds me of computers. For as long as we have had them people have been predicting that they will "think". Computer Scientists like to point to artifical intelligence as an end point. They point out that humans do some things better than computers (like vision processing). On the other hand, computers do many things much better than humans. These also tend to be things humans (on the whole) do not like to do. The synergy between humans and computers is very powerful. We complement each other.
California State University, Chico was the first school in California to offer an ABET-accredited degree program in mechatronic engineering. Now its California Mechatronics Center works with industry on machinery, robotics, and surveillance vehicles.
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