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

Robot Ships of the U.S. Navy Can Operate Autonomously

110720-N-ZZ999-007 FORT MONROE, Va. (July 20, 2011) A common unmanned surface vehicle patrols for intruders during Trident Warrior 2011. The experimental boat can operate autonomously or by remote. The Trident Warrior experiment, directed by U.S. Fleet Forces Command, temporarily deploys advanced capabilities on ships to collect real-world data and feedback during an underway experimentation period. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Scott Youngblood/Released)

FORT MONROE, Va. (July 20, 2011) A common unmanned surface vehicle patrols for intruders during Trident Warrior 2011. The experimental boat can operate autonomously or by remote. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Scott Youngblood/Released)

With all the concern over autonomous robots in the military, one would think that they are more of a future concern than reality.  However, the U.S. Navy has operated robot ships for many years and continues to develop advanced capabilities for those autonomous ships.

I saw this article on the progress of new robot ships in America’s Navy and did some research on some of these craft.  Although photos exist for some of the more recent developments, the ones shown here from several years ago are still relevant for the showing the capabilities of these bot ships.

Robot Ship

Bluefin-12 AUV with a Buried Object Scanning Sonar (BOSS) integrated in two wings. This picture was taken in January 2005 of the coast of Florida during engineering trials.By Mierlo at English Wikipedia [Copyrighted free use], via Wikimedia Commons

In order to counter the threat of diesel-electric submarines, the U.S Navy wants to develop these autonomous sub-hunters.  Diesel-electric subs are very cost effective compared to a nuclear attack boat and they can operate very quietly.  So, these subs are difficult to detect and even though they have limited range, pose a significant threat.

The primary motivation for developing these robot ships is cost.  They can operate in shallow waters and survey large areas to identify threats.  The robot ships will not attack, but will call in other navy assets to deal with the targets.

Work on the U.S. Navy’s new anti-submarine drone is progressing and that’s bad news for diesel-electric subs.

The prototype of the ACTUV is named Sea Hunter and is due to begin sea trials in the fall of this year.  Then the decision will be made on deployment of these vessels.

Robot Ship

The prototype of the U.S. Navy’s robot ship is the Anti-Submarine Warfare Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV) Image Credit: darpa.mil

What do you think about these robot ships?  The military seems to be set on developing autonomous vehicles of all kinds.  Although these ships will not be armed, but they will have to be able to correctly identify threats from other surface ships and other objects on and under the water.  These robot ships will have to operate for months autonomously and probably at great distances from other support vessels if the details of these designs are correct.

Perhaps the robot ships will have human monitors to oversee their operations and take the helm if needed.  It is hard to believe the robotic craft would be purely autonomous at all times.

Let me know with your comments.

Source: US Navy to Deploy Robot Ships to Track Chinese and Russian Subs

Robot Assassins

Robots are being used in a war-like situation, in a country we are not at war with, and controlled by civilians in a spy agency thousands of miles away.  This is the new world of terrorist wars.  At some point, all of this will have to be sorted out ethically.  The entire question of robots as killing machines is one that cause great concern.  On the one hand, these robots are probably saving innocent lives that would be lost in a terrorist attack; but, on the other hand, the robots are killing humans.  Check out the story in the link below.

[A predator drone. For the first time ever, a civilian intelligence agency is manipulating robots from halfway around the world in a program of extrajudicial executions in a country with which Washington is not at war.(AP Photo/U.S. Air Force, Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson)]

Credit: AP Photo/U.S. Air Force, Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson

"The kohl-eyed Hakimullah Mehsud probably is dead. He was the target for a missile fired last month from an unmanned aircraft hovering over the Afghan-Pakistani border – but launched by an operator in the US.

A predator drone. For the first time ever, a civilian intelligence agency is manipulating robots from halfway around the world in a program of extrajudicial executions in a country with which Washington is not at war."

via www.commondreams.org

Energetically Autonomous Tactical Robot (EATR): Vegetarian, Not Carnivore

So, after days of reporting on this story all over the blogosphere, the company that is developing EATR has come out with a press release to clarify what their robot will use as fuel.  In the original post here at RobotNext, EATR was described as a grazing robot, implying that it only consumed vegetable matter like grass.  Another robot mentioned in the post, Ecobot, is being developed to fuel itself on insects.  These are two completely separate programs, but in the post – as is often the case here at RobotNext – I speculated on the possibility of combining the features of the two robots.   In other words, what the next thing would be:  a robot that can power itself on both plants and insects. 

To set the record straight, I thought I would explain that this was pure speculation on my part and not intended to suggest that EATR can consume insects.  In response to the stories about consuming dead human bodies, I did post a message on Twitter suggesting that I thought the robot only ate grass.  In my research, I could find only information that EATR would consume biomass.  Biomass can include anything organic, so that could be taken to mean that the robot might eat anything.  Since I saw this story originally in reference to eating a lawn, that is how I reported the robot in the original post.

At any rate, this is still a fascinating idea for a robot and one that should provoke serious thought.  Along those lines, it should be noted that the Cyclone Engine that will power EATR could also revolutionize transportation outside of robotics.  This engine can run on any vegetable-based material, including agricultural waste, coal, municipal trash, kerosene, ethanol, diesel, gasoline, heavy fuel, palm oil, cottonseed oil, algae oil, hydrogen, propane, etc. –individually or in combination.  Thus, the Cyclone Engine is a very “green” power source.  Read the presentation on this engine to see all the details.

Washington, July 17 (ANI): The makers of a biomass-eating military robot have clarified that the machine is a vegetarian, and not a non-vegetarian as was earlier reported. Robotic Technology Inc.’s (RTI’s) Energetically Autonomous Tactical Robot …

Biomass-eating military robo is a veggie, not a carnivore – Thaindian.com
Fri, 17 Jul 2009 16:56:00 GMT

Robot Insects: Next Military Spies?

So, these are really not robots, they are cyborgs or more correctly, cybugs.  RobotNext has posted articles on robot insects or robots modeled on insects in the past.  Now, these newest robobugs are something else.  These tiny hybrid insect machines combine mechanical and living materials to achieve their abilities.  Microchips are implanted directly into the developing insects where, as the insect matures the electronics are integrated into the nervous system of the bug.  This has actually been done with moths and the moths have exhibited controlled flight while still tethered.  The next step will be independent flight.  First, the problem of power generation must be solved.  Check out the article below for more details on this intriguing project.

 Cyborg Bug

  Photo Credit:  DARPA

The HI-MEMS program at the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has to date invested $12 million into research since it began in 2006. It currently supports these cybug projects:

  • Roaches at Texas A&M.
  • Horned beetles at University of Michigan and the University of California at Berkeley.
  • Moths at an MIT-led team, and another moth project at the Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research.

Scientists can already control the flight of real moths using implanted devices.

Powerful Ideas: Military Develops 'Cybug' Spies
Wed, 15 Jul 2009 00:42:24 GMT

Robot Grazes for Power

This robot can find its own power by chomping on grass or other vegetation that it finds along its way.  As a potential military application, this robot is currently in a testing stage.  You can see more information in a story posted at Examiner.com.  RobotNext had an earlier post on a robot that can eat bugs to produce its own power, so this concept of living off the land could extend to insects and vegetation.  Make sure and check out the links to other stories on this interesting robot.

EATR(TM) concept drawing courtesy of Robotic Technology Inc. from Examiner.com

Cyclone Power Technologies Inc. announced that it has completed the first stage of its project with Robotic Technology Inc. (RTI), of Potomac, MD, to develop a beta-test biomass engine system which will be used to power RTI’s Energetically Autonomous Tactical Robot (EATR™). This is part of a project sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Defense Sciences Office.

What more could one want in a robot? Hey! I think that thing is eating my lawn! Paul Fox is an Examiner from Portland. You can see Paul's articles on Paul's

See all stories on this topic

There's a robot eating my lawn
Examiner.com – USA
Wed, 08 Jul 2009 07:27:57 GMT

Hummingbird-Like Robot

From rats to hummingbirds, the biological models just keep on coming.  This is another in a long line of nature-modeled robots.  It flaps its wings in the manner of a hummingbird and is built to use a spy for the military.  Its purpose would be to loiter in an area, either indoors or outdoors, and send video of its target.  It would be so small as to be almost undetectable.  Plus, if it looks and acts like a hummingbird, it might be mistaken for the real thing even if it is discovered.  Also, check out the video on YouTube.  And finally, a note to readers, there will be no post for tomorrow, July 4, Independence Day here in the USA.  Please return on Sunday for the Weekend Newswrap.

hummingbird robot 

Image Credit: Forbes.com

AeroVironment, maker of several important military UAVs like the Wasp, Raven, and Dragon Eye , has received a Phase II SBIR grant from DARPA to continue work on it’s hummingbird-like nano UAV (NAV), which propels itself with flapping wings. In the video, the vehicles stability control is shown, including take-offs from a standstill.

“The goals of the NAV program — namely to develop an approximately 10 gram aircraft that can hover for extended periods, can fly at forward speeds up to 10 meters per second, can withstand 2.5 meter per second wind gusts, can operate inside buildings, and have up to a kilometer command and control range — will stretch our understanding of flight at these small sizes and require novel technology development.”

The Phase II contract is worth $2.1 million USD and will continue through the summer of 2010.

[Via Slashdot]

Hummingbird-Like Nano UAV from AeroVironment
William Cox
Thu, 02 Jul 2009 12:18:57 GMT

Robots Changing Rules of Command

Command of military forces has changed and robots are the reason.  Robots are creating the next battlefield.  The use of robots has caused two major events to occur in war-fighting.  First, robots have given the soldier in the field unprecedented power.  Corporals have control of robots with great destructive capability and the ability to make the decision to use that force in an instant.  Second, generals in command centers far from the site of the battle can micromanage the tactics of units because of their ability to use drone robots to observe, and therefore direct, small units directly.  In some cases, according to this article from the Brookings Institute, generals have been known to order a single soldier to change positions.

Robots are incredible force multipliers on the battlefield.  How will the military learn to deal with this?  More importantly, how will the government of the United States redesign the military command structure to adapt to the use of robots?

Military Robot 

Photo Credit:  http://robotstocknews.blogspot.com and iRobot

The Rise of the Tactical General
Brookings Institution, DC
Forty-two other countries have military robotics programs, as well as a host of nonstate actors. But like any major change in war, the robot revolution is not turning out to be the frictionless triumph of technology that some would describe it.

The Rise of the Tactical General – Brookings Institution
Tue, 16 Jun 2009 15:55:47 GMT

Robot Serpent for the Battlefield

Snakebots are back in the news again, but this time as a weapon.  RobotNext has posted articles about robot snakes that have been developed with the purpose of traversing difficult terrain or tight places in order to perform mostly humanitarian or rescue purposes.  This robot will save lives in a different way.  According to the Jerusalem Post, this snakebot is controlled by a soldier with a laptop computer.  In a demonstration of its abilities, it was shown slithering along in caves, tunnels, and buildings as it transmitted video and sound back to the controller.  Check out the article links below for the complete story.

The new IDF robot snake
Photo: Channel 2

Israeli Defense Force Creates Robot Snake To Use On Battlefield
Jerusalem, Israel (AHN) – The Israeli Defense Force has created a "robot snake" capable of recording video and sound on the battlefield. The technologically advanced snake, which is about two meters long and covered in army camouflage,
'Robot Snake' Offers A New Wave In Military Spy Technology ChattahBox
IDF developing battlefield robot snake Jerusalem Post
Submitted by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 09, @03:32PM Slashdot
New Zealand Herald
all 15 news articles

Israeli Defense Force Creates Robot Snake To Use On Battlefield – AHN
Tue, 09 Jun 2009 18:34:43 GMT

Flying Insect-sized Robots Get Eyes

So I guess this fits with the theme of recent posts on RobotNext.  Only this one combines the themes of military robots and nature inspired machines.  This article on spying roboflies is about tiny cameras that can be integrated with flying robots that are no larger than an insect.  Of course, there are many other possible applications for this miniature camera.  One of the uses could be for robotic spacecraft where size and weight are critical.  Another area where these devices could make an impact is in small observatories for use in border security.  It is thought that the robots or machines with these cameras would be cheap enough to be dropped by aircraft over a large area.  See the complete article by clicking on the title below.

It is light enough to be carried by these tiny surveillance drones and also uses very little power.

Spying roboflies to get minicam eyes
Fri, 22 May 2009 20:59:44 GMT

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