The subject of robots gets really controversial when we look at the near term prospect of human service robots. The industry has already created technology that allows robots to operate in close proximity to humans. What happens next is anybody’s guess.
There has been speculation for some time about the role of robots in human health care and other personal service applications. Is any of this really possible? Maybe. There is a long road from here to there. The nature of close human contact, complex situations and snap decision making needed to implement care of people is daunting to say the least.
Can a processor be programmed to learn behavior? Can programming ever be created that is capable of dealing with unanticipated circumstances? We don’t have a lot of experience with computers in these kind of situations. What we used to talk about as artificial intelligence is really a very finite form of programming. More complex systems that are capable of doing complex searching and recognizing shapes in the environment are relatively recent in the field of complex processing.
Some of the major car makers have demonstrated cars that can park themselves, cars that can navigate and drive themselves successfully must be just around the corner. Autonomous vehicles have only been demonstrated recently after many years of effort and funding from DARPA. The programming that goes into these systems involves tens, if not, hundreds of man years of development.
What’s the underlying goal here? Reduce health care costs? Free workers from boring tasks? Commuting to work is pretty boring at times. There has to be a business proposition in here somewhere.
Or is the idea of a human service robot compelling for other reasons? Like the notion that the television of the 1950’s should be flat. So after decades of effort and a trillion dollars in development and commerce, we have flat screen monitors and they are so cheap, we have them everywhere. Maybe a robot is the expression of mankind’s desire to free itself from menial, repetitive tasks. It makes sense to enough people that there are tons of people experimenting with the idea.
So we find ourselves back at the beginning with Rossom’s Universal Robots. Mechanical marvels to take the place of humans where danger or menial, repetitive task are concerned. An idea that has been around for almost 100 years. And as we get closer and manage some impressive accomplishments, we being to see how complex and difficult a mechatronic challenge this is. And it looms still a way off in the future. Closer for our increasing understanding, further as we appreciate the complexity of it.
Will we get there?