Robots in the workplace
Robots are designed to make a person’s tasks easier, more efficient, less time-consuming and safer. This is especially true for the robots that take over in the work place. What about the Fleet Cleaner robot for ships, the robots taking over in the hospitality industry, the continuously improving conveyer belt technology in Japan, the Telerobot remote-controlled police assistant, the traffic control robot in Kinshasa, the Farmbot perfecting your crops, the Swagbot that herds your cattle, the Veebot that draws your blood, the bot that delivers take-out to your door and the dozens of small robots that help sorting the packages in a warehouse?!
Robots at home
If you think robots are too expensive to have in your own house, think again. There are more and more models that are aimed at the consumer’s market. Check out these friendly bots that help you manage your household: Robit, Aido and Kuri. And if you hate folding your laundry, use the Foldimate.
Humanoids vs cyborgs
Where humanoids are robots with human characteristics or form, cyborgs are humans with restored or enhanced abilities thanks to artificial components.
It makes sense that if you can want a machine to interact with humans and take over from a human, you create a robot that has human characteristics and abilities, something people can relate and get accustomed to. After all, communicating with a machine is hard enough, let alone if it looks like a box with some wires attached. Good thing, we’ve seen a lot of them.
Take the Jia Jia robot for example, this realistic and witty robot is the future for the hospitality industry. But also the Valkyrie robot that might one day end up in a space mission to Mars, the Yamaha Motobot which can actually drive a motor cycle, the Hitchbot which travels around Canada, the Atlas robot by Boston Dynamics that can walk and correct its stride like a human, this amazing skeleton robot with electric-powered muscles and don’t forget this interactive robot that helps children with autism.
Sadly, so far, we haven’t come across a lot of video examples of cyborgs. But then again, cyborgs are mostly an invention of the science-fiction industry and not a reality (yet?). I do want you to check out this video from Duoskin, which shows how on-skin interfaces might give us easy control over our electronic devices. And second, this clip by BionX Medical Technology about the Empower Ankle, an innovative leg prosthetic.
Biomimicry in robots
Not just humans, also animals and animal behavior has been studied as an inspiration to create robots. How do animals move, and how can that movement be copied with technology? There are quite some amazing robotic animals out there, that more or less look, jump, fly and move like the real thing: bats, bees, birds, cheetahs, dogs, horses, kangaroos, octopi and even termites. Many of which are from the hands of the brilliant engineers at Boston Dynamics.
Weak AI vs Strong AI
Two types of artificial intelligence can be discerned: weak artificial intelligence and strong Traffic control robots artificial intelligence. Where machines with weak (or narrow) AI focus on applying intelligence to one specific problem, without the presence of self-consciousness, machines with strong AI have a certain self-consciousness and their intelligence can be applied to a variety of ‘problems’.
The public opinion is that real strong artificial intelligence hasn’t been achieved yet, as that would mean that a machine’s intellectual capability is functionally equal to a human’s. However, in the following we’ll make the distinction between machines/software that are made for a specific tasks and machines/software that appear to have a consciousness.
Examples and talks on weak AI
Two of the buzzwords nowadays are chatbots and AI assistants. Think for example of all the bots being added to Facebook Messenger. 1-800-FLOWERS for example, makes ordering flowers online even easier or the DoNotPay Bot made by Joshua Browder to help people get rid of their parking tickets.
On the other side you have AI assistants, of which the most famous, Apple’s Siri, has now been surpassed by Viv. In general they make your live easier while driving (Dashbot) or while planning a citytrip, while looking for the right patients for your clinical trial (Deep6AI) or while drawing (Google’s AutoDraw)!
Examples and talks on strong AI
As we don’t have concrete example of strong artificial intelligence yet, we’d like to share three talks from robotics experts who digged deep into the subjects of artificial intelligence, deep learning, machine learning and ethics:
- Neil Jacobstein (Singularity University) discusses the benefits of artificial intelligence and why humans are still better at asking the right questions than robots.
- Andrew Smart (author Beyond Zero and One) gives you a short insight into his book on machine consciousness and shares his thoughts to the question ‘can robots trip on acid?’
- Nell Watson (Singularity University) discusses machine intelligence, AI philosophy and how ethics should be taught to machines.
Educating, entertaining and just plain silly robots
Right about now, you’ve already got a clear image of what robots can do and what they might be able to do in the future. But we wouldn’t be The Innovation Station, if we didn’t give you a little bit more. So, take a few minutes and go through some more videos on robots taking on sword masters, dinos interacting with kids, cars turning into robots, the world’s first robot acting as an art critic, a robot driving a bike and silly robots build by (non)engineer Simone Giertz.
If you really can’t have enough of robots and talks about artificial intelligence, we recommend you to continue watching these clips:
- The Future of Robotics – an excellent panel discussion about robotics with representatives from BMW, Ekso Bionics, 3D Robotics and iRobot;
- Humans need not apply – a shortdoc about the impact of automatization on the human workforce;
- The hunt for AI – a short clip about two robots creating their own language through interaction from the documentary The Hunt for AI by the BBC.