Robots are everywhere...
This morning on CNN, they had an interview with a British gentleman/lawmaker who is asking for some research/investigation into Robot Rights. The concern is that Artificial Intelligence research is pacing (or outpacing) robot design and that we may, at some point in the near future, find ourselves with self-aware devices who may or may not have ideas of their own about what they want to do - would a Roomba really want to spend the rest of its days vacuuming and recharging its batteries? Would you? It was an interesting 2-3 minute discussion...
UPDATE: CNN.com just posted this.
Okay, next I picked up my latest issue of WIRED magazine that showed up yesterday... flipping through it, I find an article on the Pleo - the little baby dinosaur bot that will be released next year. A little discussion in it about whether this is a true robot... it reminds me that the latest issue of MAKE magazine also covers the Pleo but goes deeper into discussing its "learning" capacity and whether it truly could be considered "alive."
Then, just an hour ago, I visit the bookstore to pick up the latest issue of Scientific American. On the cover is one of the most impressive looking robots I've ever seen. I don't really know if it's functional or just a sculptured work of art, but the joints (the knee and elbow joints are amazing) and the features (hands, feet, etc) make me realize that as computer components continue to shrink, servo motors become more powerful, battery technology moves forward - all of this could very well lead to the robot on that cover. The cover caption is "Dawn of the Age of Robots" - and a picture of our buddy, AlphaRex, is found on page 64. (Turn the page, to 66, and you'll see another "robot" made out of Honda Accord parts imitating Rodin's "The Thinker" in an advertisement!)
UPDATE: A little digging found that the "robot" on the cover is actually a sculpture by Mark Ho. It is extremely life-like. Here are some details on it:
Height: 16.93” (43 cm)
Weight: 13.2 lb (6 kg)
Number of parts: 920 (of which 101 are found in each hand)
Number of mobile parts: 85
Material: Bronze and stainless steel
It really does make me realize that if we're not entering the age of robots now, we soon will be. Just as the PC began to grow in popularity in the early 80's (and the Mac, too!) and is now considered to be a normal fixture in most homes, you can almost see the emergence of robots over the next 20 years. Instead of us talking about the speed of our modems (remember when 14.4bps was so HOT) and whether we want to splurge on a DVD-burner, we'll be comparing notes on our robots' servo motors strength, it's recharge-to-function-time ratio, and whether we want to splurge on the optional True-Voice chip.
The wonder I had as a kid seeing my first PET computer and then typing a program on the Apple II and then moving to the first Mac (with the signatures inside the case!) and beyond... I get this again when I play with the NXT as well as watch my young nephew (last night) snap pieces onto the Brick and tell me where he wants to connect "the eyes" (Ultrasonic sensor). I get to be a kid again...
UPDATE: My friend Tony emailed me this link - plan on spending some time here!