Will We Accept Robots Living and Working with Us?

Robots at Work
By Steve Jurvetson from Menlo Park, USA (Caught Coding Uploaded by PDTillman) [CC BY 2.0

Humans and Robots

Perhaps this is the most important question about humans and robots.  Can humans and robots coexist on this world?  There are already robots in our homes and there are certainly robots in our workplaces.  So, there is some relationship already.  Some people are already very attached to their bots.People dress up Roombas as pets and give them names.  Other folks become so attached to their robotic companions they have funerals when they cease to function.  And, according to the article that inspired this post, people are very reluctant to even cause harm to a robot.

Personal Experience with Robots

There is something in human nature that makes us attach human attributes to those machines around us.  Seems very weird, but I have seen this occur in my life.  I have several robots in my office that I use for educational workshops and presentations.  Maybe its hard to admit, but I would be very sad to see one of them break.  I don’t think I would hold a funeral for my Tetrix robot, but I would miss having it with me for presentations.

My little humanoid robot will be the hardest to see go to the great robot beyond.  Possibly that is because it talks and seems to relate to humans around it.  Yes, I know its a machine that is programmed to act that way, but still it has become one of my favorite bots.

Robots in the Home and at Work

It seems likely as robots are put into homes, they will become companions to their owners.  Relationships will develop.  It is not as clear to me that robots in the workplace will be perceived in the same way.  On the other hand, military robots have become very popular with the soldiers they work with in the field.  Robots are given names and sometimes the robot have the names painted on them.  The robots that seek out explosives and mines are seen by the personnel as members of their units.  They are missed or even mourned if they become damaged or destroyed.  This has been documented in situations in the recent Middle East wars.

Humanoid Robots

By Tokumeigakarinoaoshima (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

 So, what can we make of this.  Will robots become companions or even friends as they become more commonplace in homes and work?  Does it make a difference if the robot is humanoid?  These are difficult questions to answer and research will need to be done to see how this could effect robot use.

What do you think about this?  Let me know by leaving a comment.

The robots have arrived but will we ever live in harmony with them or will we remain suspicious of their intentions?

Source: Intelligent machines: Will we accept robot revolution? – BBC News

Humanoid Space Robot May Soon Join the ISS Crew

A humanoid space robot

Nao robots are finding uses in many areas.  These little guys have been the first to show signs of self-awareness and are one of the most popular robots for education and research.  Now a Nao robot could be the first humanoid robot to take up permanent residence on the International Space Station (ISS).

Now, I know some of you might be saying wait a minute here.  Isn’t there already a humanoid robot on the ISS?  After all, Robonaut 2 has already made a home on the ISS and has proved to be a valuable member of the crew.  I asked this question myself.  I wonder if Robonaut is not considered humanoid since it does not have the lower part of its body attached.  Or maybe Robonaut is not a permanent part of the crew.  At any rate, in the article I read about this, Nao is being touted as the first permanent humanoid resident.

Potential space robot Nao

Futur en Seine digital technology festival, Paris, June 2015. Le robot Nao. Jean-Pierre Dalbéra from Paris, France

A research team at the French Institute of Health and Medical Research just put mankind a bit closer to complete robot rule this past month, outfitting the humanoid robot Nao with an “autobiographical memory.” To make this accomplishment even more astounding, the team intends to push for its new robotic system to become a permanent member of the International Space Station.

Not the first robots on the ISS

Nao may be considered the first humanoid robot on the ISS, but it will not be the first robot.  There have been many robots on the station over the years.   The station has several robot arms to assist with tasks such as capturing resupply vehicles and moving station modules into place.  Perhaps the most famous is the Canadarm2 or the Mobile Servicing System (MSS).  This robotic arm was launched to the ISS in 2001.  It has been very important in assembly of the ISS.  Also, its aids astronauts when they are conducting spacewalks.

Another robot on the station is the Robonaut 2.  This humanoid robot, also known as R2, went to the ISS on the shuttle Discovery in the STS-133 mission.  R2 is a test platform to generate data on how a robot may work with astronauts in the future.  This bot has the ability to work autonomously as well as to be tele-operated by the astronauts or from the ground.

Space Robot SPHERES

Three satellites fly in formation as part of the Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites (SPHERES) investigation. This image was taken during Expedition 14 in the Destiny laboratory module. NASA/International Space Station Expedition 14 Public domain.

If you count the robotic arms on the ISS, there are quite a few robots onboard the station already.  Besides the previously mentioned Robonaut, there are the SPHERES.

NASA has been testing SPHERES on the space station since 2011.

Pictured in the photo to the center left, they are flying in formation. These free-flyers will receive an upgrade with a smartphone to become a bot known as Smart SPHERES.

…this prototype free-flying space robot equipped with a smartphone, known as Smart SPHERES (Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient Experimental Satellites).

The station astronauts have upgraded these existing space robots to use Google’s “Project Tango” smartphone, which features a custom 3-D sensor and multiple cameras. Smart SPHERES are being used to test free-flying 3-D mapping and navigation inside the space station. NASA developed the Smart SPHERES to perform work on the space station that requires the mobile sensing the bots have onboard.  It is hoped they will carry out environmental monitoring of levels of radiation, lighting, and air quality.  Smart SPHERES is funded by the Space Technology Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters.

Space robot SPHERE
Image Credit: NASA/Ames

What is the future for robots on the ISS and beyond?

Robots will continue to play a role on the ISS as new and more capable machines are developed.  When missions beyond low Earth orbit are conducted in the future robots will almost certainly be along side of the astronauts.  Its hard to imagine that they would not.  Space robotics will be able to enhance the ability of humans to conduct safe and successful missions.

What is your opinion on the place of robots in human spaceflight?  Let me know with your comments.

Source: NASA Ames Launches Smartphone Upgrade and CubeSat Aboard Orbital Rocket

Source: A humanoid robot may soon be the first permanent resident on the ISS

Humanoid Robots Play Soccer With a Goal in Mind

Can a team of soccer playing robots beat the best human soccer players in the world?  And can they accomplish that feat by the year 2050?  Each year a soccer tournament for robots is held to determine the best robot team in the world.  Eventually, the plan is for the best humanoid robot soccer team to play the best human soccer team.

The annual RoboCup competition features humanoid robots trying, and sometimes failing, to play the beautiful game in a series of soccer tournaments.

The official goal of the project:

“By the middle of the 21st century, a team of fully autonomous humanoid robot soccer players shall win a soccer game, complying with the official rules of FIFA, against the winner of the most recent World Cup.”

Last month, a team of US robots defeated their robotic counterparts from Iran in the finals of the RoboCup.  Currently, the robots play soccer under a heavily modified set of rules to accommodate the state of robotic technology.  Rule changes are incorporated into the competition to push the technology and make the league play more like the real world of human football.  There is a roadmap that outlines how the robot teams finally get to 2050.

Humanoid Robots Playing Soccer

Two humanoid robots search for the ball in the Robocup

The most interesting of these RoboCup competitions occur in the Humanoid League.  The robots in this league are required to have a body that is like a human in that it has a head, two arms, and two legs.  And, the bots can only use sensors that allow them to move and perceive the world around them like a human counterpart would.  That means they have to do things like see the soccer ball, figure out its trajectory, and sense the environment around them without the assistance of some of the advanced sensor technology commonly found in today’s robots.

RoboCup is an international robotics competition originally conceived in the mid-1990’s and officially started in 1997. The overall goal is to promote robotic technology and artificial intelligence research.  This is done through a sports framework in order to appeal to the public.  The name RoboCup is a contraction of the competition’s full name, “Robot Soccer World Cup.”   There are several other divisions in the competition that include contests in rescues and other areas.  In 2014 the world’s competition was held in Brazil. RoboCup 2015 was held in Hefei, China.

Given the ambitious goals of the RoboCup, do you think there is a chance that they succeed in producing a team of humanoid robots that can beat the best human soccer players?  Let me know what you think.

Source:  Wikipedia

Source: Watch adorable humanoids battle for the robot soccer world cup – CNET

Source: US beats Iran in robot soccer final

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.

Japanese Robot to Walk on the Moon by 2015

The next step on the Moon may well be taken by a robot.  In a country that produces robots to do almost anything you can imagine, a robot to walk on the lunar surface is not so far-fetched.  The Japanese just may be the next nation to plant a flag on the dusty surface of Earth’s largest satellite.  That is the plan of the Osaka-based “Space Oriented Higashiosaka Leading Association” (SOHLA) which announced its goal of putting a robot on the moon by 2015.

SOHLA consists of six private space technology companies with connections to governmental space research institutions.  The group estimates it will take about $10.5 million to make the project work. SOHLA is trying to build on the success of the satellite it launched into orbit last year, Maido-1.  The bipedal humanoid robot planned for the Moon is tentatively named Maido-kun.

Some think that the mission of this pioneering robot should be more than a simply flag planting ceremony, but even if this machine does not discover any new resources for Japan, it may well show the world that the Japanese have set their sights on laying claim to whatever valuable materials may be located there in the future.  Read the story at the links below.

Image Credit: SOHLA via Popular Science

Story by Jeremy Hsu at Popular Science  "That's one small step for robots, one giant leap sideways for space exploration. …" 

See all stories on this topic

Via Popular ScienceCrunchGearNODE [JP], and Pink Tentacle

Bipedal Japanese Robot Will Walk on the Moon by 2015
Popular Science
Thu, 29 Apr 2010 15:27:51 GMT

GM, NASA Build Robot Named R2

Robonaut2, or R2, as it is known, is the most advanced dextrous robot yet developed.  Built by NASA and General Motors, this robot will be able to work along side an astronaut or an autoworker.  The idea is to have the ability to work in space where it may be too dangerous for humans in some places, and to work with humans in an auto production plant to improve efficiency. GM and NASA have been long-time collaborators.  GM worked with NASA on the Lunar Rover for the Apollo moon programs.  Read the story at the link below for more details about this robot.

Two Robonaut 2 

Credit: NASA/GM

Robonaut2, or R2, is able to use its hands to do work beyond the scope of previously introduced humanoid robots. It surpasses previous dextrous humanoid
See all stories on this topic

GM, NASA build advanced dextrous robot
Creamer Media's Engineering News
Tue, 16 Feb 2010 10:36:44 GMT

Weekend RobotNext Newswrap

Several interesting stories about robots crossed my news feed today, and since I could not decide which one to write on – I am starting something new at RobotNext.  This feature will be called the Weekend RobotNext Newswrap.  On Sundays, I will pick several robot stories that I have seen that are interesting, newsworthy, or just plain strange.  Of course, this will be in my opinion only, and I will not indicate which are the strange ones.  I will leave that up to you.

So, here’s what I found for today.  First, a story on making robot costumes out of gift bags.  Just what you need for Halloween, which is only a few months away.  Plan now, it will be here before you know it.  The small humanoid robot interacting with a cat is too cute to pass up and the article is interesting to boot.  A more serious note is struck by the posting on search and rescue robots.  This is a real life-saver for the rescuer and the rescued.  RoboCar is an intriguing little car that is being developed in a Japanese lab to test features of autonomous vehicles.  And finally, check out the Israeli RoboCup team entry.  The three member robot team is looking to help put Israel on the map in robotics.

I hope you will check out all the stories.  Let me know if you like the roundup and which story is your favorite.


Gift Bag Robot Costumes

Make Gift Bag Robot Costumes – Parents of toddlers and preschoolers know that you have to have a LOT of fun activities in your arsenal to keep those little bodies occupied. Here's a project I love …
CraftBlips – Top Other News,… – http://craftblips.com/other/

Make Gift Bag Robot Costumes – Craft
(author unknown)
Sun, 28 Jun 2009 18:44:06 GMT


Advanced, But Small, Humanoid Robot


Times of Malta

Ġiġ the robot shows off
Times of Malta
Ġiġ is an advanced humanoid robot built by University students in the Faculty of Information and Communication Technology (ICT)'s special project lab as
and more »

Ġiġ the robot shows off – Times of Malta
Sun, 28 Jun 2009 08:26:59 GMT


Search and Rescue Robots

Flight and rescue robots demonstrate the advantages of search and
TU Graz (Pressemitteilung)
Modern robotics can help where it is too dangerous for humans to venture. Search and rescue robots (S&R robots) have meanwhile become so sophisticated that
and more »

Flight and rescue robots demonstrate the advantages of search and … – TU Graz (Pressemitteilung)
Sun, 28 Jun 2009 08:12:23 GMT


RoboCar

If by some unexplained cosmic phenomena (let us say – ZMP) mystically managed to cross an open sourced Knight Industries Two Thousand (KITT) from Knight Rider with a crash test dummy, then RoboCar will be the product. This cute little intelligent Linux based bugger is designed and made by ZMP – a renowned robotics company […]

RoboCar – Autobots Roll Out!
twinks
Sun, 28 Jun 2009 16:00:50 GMT


Israeli RoboCup Team

In this tournament, the 25 teams have only three players, the players are all autonomous robots and the ultimate goal is to promote research and development in the fields of robotics and artificial intelligence. RoboCup and its accompanying …

Israeli robot soccer players put best foot forward – Jerusalem Post
Sun, 28 Jun 2009 21:40:00 GMT