Personal robots: amazing progress predicted next 3 decades By Dick Pelletier
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Doctor Pelletier offers an interesting view about one of the most sensitive topic inside the social trend : how tecnology can help an aging society
Personal robots: amazing progress predicted next 3 decades
By Dick Pelletier
Personal robots have been a long time coming, but scientists now say we can expect revolutionary machines that surpass human physical and intellectual abilities to arrive over the next three decades.
Today’s robots are mostly industrial types found in factories. An example would be an arm that inserts a product into a box and places it on a conveyor belt. Robots in other areas – vacuum cleaners, lawn mowers, security cams, smart cell phones, and vehicle amenities, are popping up in huge numbers.
In addition, robo-pets such as Sony’s AIBO and NEC’s PaPeRo, priced from $2,000 to $5,000, are working their way into our homes providing companionship for children, the handicapped, and the elderly.
Robot maker Hoaloha Robotics and software developer Robosoft recently joined forces to address the growing market for socially-assistive robots that would enable individuals requiring assistance in their daily living to live independently, with dignity, and at affordable costs.
In addition, Willow Garage, a Menlo Park, CA firm just released a test version of their personal robot platform, the PR2, also designed to help senior shut-ins maintain independence in their later years.
By early 2020s, experts predict a variety of low-cost service ‘bots that express human emotions like joy, anger, and puzzlement will begin appearing in homes around the world. These strong robots can lift heavy objects; even carry disabled patients up stairways.
Future robots could wear skin made of soft, sensitive nanomaterials – tough, but with the gentle touch of a masseuse. Tomorrow’s servant ‘bots will be designed to shower us with affection and nurturing, and most people will find this attention extremely desirable – almost addictive.
Available soon in the $10,000 to $30,000 range will be human-like robots such as Sony Qrio, Honda Asimo, and Toyota Personal robot. These realistic marvels can speak and understand crude language, recognize family members by sight, and perform many butler, chef, and house cleaning services.
In a Nova interview, former Carnegie Melon lab director Hans Moravec stated that by the 2030s, advanced robots will surpass human intelligence and could actually help us evolve into the future. When these Mind Children, as Moravec calls them, become aware of our world and social interactions, they could develop a near human-like consciousness.
Artificial intelligence has made spectacular advances in the last few years. In 1997, IBM’s Deep Blue supercomputer defeated world chess champion Garry Kasparov, in a world first. Today, even small computers have this awesome power, and chess masters now learn from them. IBM’s latest human-thinking computer, Watson, recently defeated Jeopardy experts in a trial of the popular TV quiz show.
Experts at Moravec’s Seegrid Robotics Corporation believe that within 30 years, robots will be able to visualize and reason at human levels. Moravec also predicts that robots will one day gain the ability to replicate themselves, raising intelligence with each succeeding generation. This could cause an explosive increase of information unlike anything the world has ever seen. Some refer to this as The Singularity, a point in time when technologies advance faster than today’s human brains can comprehend.
Critics to this forward view of how the future may unfold believe there could come a time when these cunning creatures understand us better than we understand ourselves, and they may manipulate us – or even worse, they could decide to “rid the Earth of this human infestation” and get rid of us.
However, advocates disagree. Entrepreneur and best-selling author, Ray Kurzweil asserts that robots are a human creation, and tomorrow’s super-intelligent versions will simply merge with us and become the next step in our evolution.
Could we evolve into a human-cyber being? Absolutely, say futurists. By mid-2030s, we could be swapping frail biological body parts for powerful, immortal silicon versions. Applied Mind co-founder Danny Hillis says, “I’m as fond of my body as anyone, but if I can be 200 with a body of silicon, I’ll take it.”