Good points, rotrhed. A robot that is rejected because of its appearance is hardly functional. In that sense, some of the robots we're seeing in Japan ARE a case of form following function. Same for Heather Knight's robot, called Data. I've said this previously, but when Data spoke at the Freescale Technology Forum last year, the 2,000 engineers in that room fell silent. That speaks volumes about robotic acceptance and, therefore, about form following function.
An android would be designed to function in "Human space" with interfaces to the environement using similar algorithms as a human body. some might be augmented for example such as the aability to see better or in the dark or hear better and possibly communicate using radio in addition to human like speech. A robot would be more likely to be designed wtih little or no functionality in human space but be capableof interacting with its environment such as welding robots and military drones.
"Form follows human functions with specialization and or augmentation" might be a better way to describe androids.
Note that as we move toward biomimetics to mimic natural functionality, there a good examples where nature has few or no matching examples of man-made devices, such as the wheel bearing allowing unlimited rotation. While eons of iteration has resulted in systems that are well-suited to the tasks necessary for survival (what ARE all those little mini- fins on a shark?), many tasks we have invented (spraying paint) do not match any that have shaped human evolution and so should result in a different form.
Two points I think not yet made, regarding how 'human-like' DOES follow function:
1) In (almost) all examples of human form provided here so far, it DOES follow function: the response by the user (e.g. acceptance by an elderly patient being aided) is a critical part of the function. Gratuitous effort to provide human traits is unwarranted, but if guiding what the user imbues to the robot better serves the function, it is not only warranted but required for the better product.
2) the ability to operate products and tools designed for humans is absolutely necessary, to leverage AVAILABLE manually operated equipment. While automated folk lifts and paint sprayers can be procured when available and affordable and lead time permits, a single robotic system capable of operating any/all of the human-use tools already in hand -- without re-design or re-capitalization of ALL of them -- can be VERY valuable. Of course humans do this already, but robotics to augment or replace humans (with the benefits of greater strength and no fatigue and repeatability [6 sigma] and instant/perfect training and perfect data logging and no panic and ...) is appropriate for dull tasks and for dirty/dangerous environments (such as Fukushima or in a burning house). Note also that mobility in environments designed for humans, but made unsuitable for humans (radiation, temperature, atmosphere, etc), requires the ability to operate common mechanical devices that humans use without notice that wouldn't already be automated (such as stairs, door knobs, doors, drawers/cabinets/access panels, keyboards, etc, etc, etc). I offer that this may be greatest unserved market, but the issue here is the FORM of the system and not the autonomy (as most cases I immediately envision could be well served by remote operation).
That's a good question, Ivan -- especially now that Google had commandeered the term Droid. What I found is that an android is an automated system that resembles humans or has human characteristics. A robot is simply an automated system. Though I also found definitions for robot that said robots have human characteristics.
Good point, Tool-maker. As automation becomes more sophisticated, I think it replicates human physical action less and less. At a certain point, automation efficiencies requre thinking outside human movement. Continual improvement seems to take a non-human-movement path.
Thanks, Tool_maker. Yes, we humans are rather frail. Backs, knees, and hips seem to require regular maintenance, and in the case of hips and knees, replacement. Robots go through shorter evolutionary changes than humans.
Jon, I like your porpoise example. This question presupposes that humans are correctly constructed for our purpose, what ever that is. Obviously we are not or we would not have to use tools to perform virtually any task. If my robot is to lift and rotate an automobile engine what human do I use as a model?
Robots shall have to use tools made for human use, threrfore a hand similar to the humans is necessary. All conveyances require feet and legs, including some wheelchairs. It would then be prudent that if robots are to take over a lot of difficult human duties, using human tools, and using human conveyances to arrive at work sites they should then be as human as possible as not to gather a curious crowd or create any other kind of disturbance.
For industrial control applications, or even a simple assembly line, that machine can go almost 24/7 without a break. But what happens when the task is a little more complex? That’s where the “smart” machine would come in. The smart machine is one that has some simple (or complex in some cases) processing capability to be able to adapt to changing conditions. Such machines are suited for a host of applications, including automotive, aerospace, defense, medical, computers and electronics, telecommunications, consumer goods, and so on. This discussion will examine what’s possible with smart machines, and what tradeoffs need to be made to implement such a solution.