Have Robots Become Self-Aware?

Nao Robot

“NAO waving” by Anonimski – Own work. Licensed under CC0 via Wikimedia Commons

In what could be a historic moment, a robot just might have shown the beginnings of self-awareness. An interesting side note to this story is the fact that not more than a week ago I told a group of students that scientists and engineers were at least decades from creating robots that could be considered to be conscious or self-aware.  Obviously, I was mistaken.

In this article from Discovery News, the experiment is described in which three humanoid robots are tested with a logic puzzle. In this procedure, one of the robots showed it was able to respond in a way that can only be explained if the robot has some degree of self awareness.

A robot has demonstrated that it exhibits a degree of self-awareness for the very first time.

One thing I find interesting about this is the fact that the robots involved in this experiment are NAOs.  These are small humanoid robots that are readily available for under $10,000.  They are not some high-end supercomputer powered android.  They are fairly simple machines.  (Do we need to rethink even calling them machines?)

So what can we say about this achievement. Should we be excited?  Should we be concerned?  Or maybe this is not as big a deal as it is being made out to be.  I for one have not really decided what I think about this.  On the one hand, there is the whole philosophical issue of machine self-awareness, and on the other hand, we as humans may really have to rethink this concept of self-awareness.  Do we event understand what it means when  we say humans are self-aware.

What do you think about this?  I would really appreciate your feedback on this issue, since I myself am trying to think my way through it.  Leave a comment and let me know.

Source: Self-Aware Robot Solves Riddle.

Robots Make a Difference in Science and Technology Education


Photo Credit: Nic McPhee http://flickr.com/photos/nicmcphee/

The question of how to help American students succeed in high tech subjects continues to be on the forefront of public discussion nationwide. One of the answers is occurring on a regular basis in communities across the country. Robotics intrigues students in a way that only a few topics can. In a recent era, space exploration held this fascination for young people and inspired a generation to take on science and engineering. Now, it appears robotics is at center stage for many students. The photo above is from a robotics competition held at the University of North Dakota. In this contest, the robots are programmed to act as sumo wrestlers. The robots push each other until one is shoved out of the ring.

Robotics classes are becoming more common in schools and robotics competitions are sweeping the nation. There are many types of competitions with acronyms such as FIRST or BEST. Take the following article in the San Antonio Express News about the local BEST competition. Students spent six weeks building robots to undertake a complex task centered around the theme of Bugs! Forrest Mims III, an amateur scientist who writes a column in the San Antonio Express News, states that robotics may be the key to improving education, especially in science and technology. You can read the full article at the link below.

The educational performance of US students has fallen dramatically in recent decades. Parents and educators can help reverse the tide by involving their students in robotics and science fairs. See www.sabest.org for details about BEST.

Robots help teens learn about science
San Antonio Express
Sat, 29 Oct 2011 00:29:04 GMT

Robots Powered by Waves on Missions to Help Humans Understand Oceans

Here is a story about a unique robot able to harvest energy from the environment.  Using a patented system of cables and fins, the robot is able to use waves in the ocean to propel itself through the water.  There is a diagram explaining the system at the Liquid Robotics website.  Wave Glider has so many possible applications that it is difficult to list them all, but a few of the missions this bot can carry out are environmental sensing, monitoring whales, and collecting ocean surface data.  Read the article below for more on this amazing robot. Could a land-based robot do the same sort of thing and draw its power from the environment?  Let me know what you think.

Photo Credit: Treehugger

Liquid Robotics: Wave-powered robots serving diverse missions
SYS-CON Media (press release) (blog)
Liquid Robotics produces a wave-powered robot called the Wave Glider. This unmanned maritime vehicle (UMV) holds great promise in enhancing human understanding of the oceans, which will enable us to be better stewards of the essential resources it

Other article sources
Shark Attacks Liquid Robotics' Wave-Powered Robot Treehugger
all 3 news articles »

Liquid Robotics: Wave-powered robots serving diverse missions – SYS-CON Media (press release) (blog)
Fri, 17 Jun 2011 07:02:21 GMT

Robots Used to Study Evolution

Robots that imitate cockroaches or lizards.  These have been developed in a university laboratory that is researching evolution.  In previous posts here at RobotNext, I have detailed stories on robots that imitate nature.  Here is just one more example of what is next in robots.  Check out the story at the link below.

Long is among a small group of researchers worldwide studying biology and evolution with the help of robots that can do things like shimmy through water or slither up shores. Long's robots, for instance, test theories on the development
TH Online RSS Feed – http://www.thonline.com/

TH – National/World Article
(author unknown)
Sat, 30 May 2009 20:04:17 GMT

Future of flagship Mars mission up in the air – Associated Press

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Will NASA's flagship mission to Mars fly next year? The space agency could decide as early as Friday whether to cancel, delay or proceed with plans to launch a nuclear-powered, SUV-size rover to the red planet. NASA has already …

Future of flagship Mars mission up in the air – Associated Press
Sun, 12 Oct 2008 09:14:00 GMT

Update to the entry from yesterday.  This project could be in trouble.  Hopefully, only a delay and not an outright cancellation.

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RobotNext: Once and Future Grease Monkeys

"To transform our culture by creating a world where science and technology are celebrated and where young people dream of becoming science and technology heroes."  Dean Kamen

Over milkshakes at Schwab’s Drug Store and hamburgers at Jurassic Park, this all got started at Universal Studios Florida.  In a discussion with some of my former students, now mentors of my high school robotics team, The Grease Monkeys, I brought up the idea of starting a blog about robotics.  Having just finished a robotics competition at the University of Central Florida, I was thinking about a way to extend our robotics experience.  We have done competitive robotics for nine years, so we think we know a little about the field.  Only time will tell if you the readers agree.

Since this is my first post, let me tell you what I plan to do here in my little niche of robotics.  RobotNext will explore what is here and now, and what is to come in the world of robots.  My experience in robotics is mostly with FIRST.  FIRST or For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology was founded by Dean Kamen.  The organization is dedicated to furthering youth involvement in robotics and engineering. 

Now at this point in my life, I want to branch out from the focus of competitive robotics and education to a more general audience.  However, I will seek to bring my own "spin" to robotics articles and news to further the theme of competition, education, and the future of robotics in society.  The other members of this team will add their own unique views to this effort.

So, here we go …