In a fast-paced world, humans clash with one another on efficiency and logic. By looking for answers to that hammering sense of frustration we face in our daily interactions, the age of robots is on deck. Though we haven’t completely ascribed ourselves to this new genome, we already look to objects to use logic to work seamlessly in our everyday lives. For the limitations of human ability, robots provide conveniences to difficult tasks. However, I think we all wonder if this technology will prove to be a more evolved species than we ourselves are.
For now, let’s dive into the humorous and playful side of robotics. Developed at the Ishikawa Oku Laboratory at the University of Tokyo in Japan, this robot is capable of deciphering visual cues and make decisions based on the input. The robot is able to make it’s own decisions independent of human leadership, which could mean so much for the future emotional relationship between humans and machines. By focusing on social and psychological interactions in the real world, Ishikawa Oku designs systems that enhance our experiences through : (1) sensory fusion, (2) dynamic image control, (3) parallel image processing through vision chips, and (4) meta perception. By exploring this branch of technology, machines will become further extensions of our internal and external lives.
In our work environments, robots carry out complicated and hazardous routines without fail, which is an impossible feat. Surgeons have recently found great advantages relying on the dynamism and precision of robot da Vinci. By placing a value on doctor dexerity and gracefulness, robotics is a science which mimics natural, human skill. Making up three parts of the whole, da Vinci works through a surgeons console, a robotic cart, and a high-definition 3D vision system.
With so much promise, robots take to hallowed testing ground aboard the International Space Station. NASA Astronauts work with Robonauts in outer space to complete rudimentary tasks, measuring the positives and negatives of humanoid technology. The environment and lab aboard the ISS is a unique and invaluable pool for experimenting with possibilities. Not only can robots iterate usefulness among scientists on the ISS with precision and logic, but more importantly, they can demonstrate potential useful applications on earth.
The argument for robots can be made with statistical evidence from examples as these, but cost of the technology continues to be a huge issue. Through open hardware, LEGO approaches the issue from a different perspective. Placing an importance on future robot-breeders, LEGO has begun to embed programmable elements into their inexpensive building blocks. By teaching children unconventionally in their playful environments, businesses have the ability to communicate valuable lessons such as : repairable circuits and systems with modular pieces, interchangeable parts, conceptual thinking, programming, and teamwork. Therefore, the accessibility of knowledge for building, fusing, and programming is in just about any toy store. LEGO’s Mindstorm chip allows children to build robots using color, touch, and sensory input. Not only do ideas like these propagate making, but they also encourage the notion of “modding” (or modifying) methods. NASA Engineer Dr. Chris Rogers uses robotics to encourage the link between engineering, education, creativity, problem solving, and control theory. Watch his GoogleTechTalk on his experiences using open technology, here.
Over at Willow Garage, the PR2 (personal robot) is coming to effect in our everyday lives. By looking at the actual interactions we face with technology, the PR2 is the next iteration of a physical intelligent object. Using a goal as a means, Willow Garage looks to the collective partnership of aspiring designers, engineers, machinists, and theorists for robotics research. The company’s operating system is open to public domain to prove, use, share, and hack. In our own lives, we saw a significant shift in the value of personal computers. Willow Garage has a belief that we will experience the same result with our robotic companions. Like a nerve center, the robots functions, thoughts, and actions will be able to be manipulated. As you envision a need, you design and alter the system which executes your instructions. This type of thinking will not only teach users making skills, it will also propagate conscious consumption. The landscape will provide new environments, reaching a point where it is unremarkable to come in contact with a robot.
Information age novelist William Gibson once eloquently stated, “the future is already here - it’s just not evenly distributed”. However, the dawn of the robots is on us, as we will continue to develop complex interactions through open and accessible technology. And in this era, it is not so much the theory that will deepen our understanding, but it is the practice and implementation that will stir and create change. The age of oncoming exploration will exist through the citizen innovators and everyday collaborators, as tools become more available and problems saturate our lives. With open as our mission, this stuff isn’t only extremely cool, it’s also part of our future.
Above is a little more about Willow Garage’s PR2 robotics platform. Started by former Google employee Scott Hassan, Willow Garage believes in the future of personal robots in an open hardware and open software framework.