The robotics industry has a lot of work to do. Of course, there are many technological advancements that need to be figured out, but perhaps the bigger problem is overcoming the public’s perception of robots. Generally there are three ways the masses think about robots:
1) Robots will steal our jobs
2) Robots will take over the world and kill us
3) Robots are useless pieces of junk
The latest example comes from “Saturday Night Live,” which this past weekend aired a skit mocking the ineptitude of humanoid robots “Dosimo” and “Dosima.” Clearly, these robots are based off Honda’s Asimo robot, which is quite advanced (more on that in a bit).
The robots, played by actors Emily Blunt and Mikey Day, are supposed to deliver food to the audience. But, of course, the demo turns is an epic fail as the robots repeatedly malfunction due to cell phones not being on Wi-Fi. How cute.
Leslie Jones plays a “Honda robot wrangler” who tries to set the robots straight, but things only get worse. Dosimo falls down multiple times, while Dasima tries to intimidate Kate McKinnon into eating a quesadilla, then Dasima can’t find her way out of a box. The robots also keep repeating themselves and using what seems like canned responses.
Bobby Moynihan, emceeing the robot demo, also slyly avoids a question about practical applications for the humanoid robots.
The problem is “SNL” mocked the wrong robot. To its credit, SNL didn’t mock Atlas from Boston Dynamics, but Asimo is arguably the most advanced humanoid robot in the world.
Some humanoid robots aren’t useful, just watch this compilation video above of robots falling down during the DARPA Robotics Challenge Finals. But Asimo has been quite useful for some time. And it will one day prove very beneficial to people, especially those with mobility issues.
Here are a couple videos that show some of the things Asimo can do. This first video shows Asimo pushing a food cart, grabbing a bottle and twisting off the cap, then pouring liquid into a cup without spilling a drop. This would be a great application for various medical facilities and for someone who is bedridden at home.
And check out this 14-minute demo from the Honda Asimo Theater at Disneyland. It gives a glimpse into what it would be like to have an Asimo robot living with you in your home. As you can see, Asimo is a lot more capable than “SNL” depicted.
“SNL” might not be as popular as it once was, maybe it’s going through another one of its cold-spells, but it picked arguably the most advanced humanoid robot the world has seen and ripped it to shreds. That’s a problem.
Consumers need to understand the value these robots can provide. That way when the robots are ready, people will buy them. Honda isn’t quite ready to sell Asimo just yet, but what happens when Asimo is ready to live with and interact with humans on a regular basis? “SNL” will air a skit where Asimo has developed a mind of its own and has decided to take over the world. That doesn’t help the industry, either.
It’s a no-win situation for the robotics industry. And it’s a major problem. It’s a problem the robotics industry is well aware of, but also a problem that should probably be getting more attention. How can the industry overcome this PR problem?