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Ghosting human function: the robot future

By Dave Armstrong - 16 Jul 2014 11:13:4 GMT
Ghosting human function: the robot future

The guide dog or seeing-eye dog is also used for many other types of handicapped people. Can the wet nose be replaced with a robot that doesn't have a short life andcan advise on shopping or routes, or will people always opt for the living alternative?; Guide dog image; Credit: © Shutterstock

Business should brace itself for floods of new products in every area, if we look at the Japanese attitude to robotics. Following Asimo, the familiar Honda robot, who I fell in love with many years ago, other Japanese technologists have drifted to the humanoid area. The emotional side of having a more realistic face or body persuaded Professor Hiroshi Ishiguro of Osaka University to create an early image of his own daughter, but that area could be seen to be useful for specialised medical physiotherapy or care situations.

The way in which we let robots of any kind into our lives at work or home is varied. Saving time and costs are the more obvious reasons, but we can't leave out minority areas like life-savers. Like trained dogs, they can be sent on dangerous missions for bomb disposal, radiation clearance or undersea work. The military applications have, I'm sure been covered for many years. With those projects well-developed, entrepreneurs will be looking for the less obvious and more fruitful uses for a new generation of robots. In London, taxi-drivers have to learn, "The Knowledge," but the replacement can be implemented by the combination of GPS and a small database.

The fact that current robotics function more quickly and efficiently than humans makes them clever, but the warning is that the intelligence will be much greater too. Presumably, the computing levels will cover very eventuality, correcting human error. That makes them likely drivers, pilots and surgeons, but there must be many more human functions that will quickly become obsolete. Skills have been lost more centuries, but we now face a total loss of function, as long as C3PO for example can be produced at a cost of just $2000. People will read this in the future of course and laugh and how expensive that would be! We miss the point yet again however, because why would people have to read- they already tend to watch videos rather than follow manuals?

Rather than list every function, we could explore the variety of task that robots are employed in. Then the future businessman, or robot, could envisage his /her/its window of opportunity. Jellyfish termination is a South Korean obsession, joining with the swimming spies that follow wildlife or report on migration. The cameras that now reveal secretive endangered animals (or their loss) have not yet become mobile enough to trace the creature to its lair. Such robots could also be used in factories for health and safety or quality control. Bang go many more jobs for people.

Household chores are now simply simply performed by machines such as vacuum cleaners that patrol from sofa to window, but next would be a greater mobility. Remote controls control our taste now in many ways. Perhaps next, they will direct us to the very latest ideas, music or work, creating human mobility in every possible way. If they look like humans, then Japanese anime could be the inspiration to "transform" them from Asimo to perfect Final Fantasy models.

Ishiguro has recently r created the Kodomoroid newsreader. Female, of course, he has probably created the need for a neutral observer of our everyday events. Newsreaders mistakes or blunders could be a thing of the past, but I doubt is the weather forecast will ever be accurate. Softbank's Pepper robot was able to follow up to 80% of conversation and understand emotions to some extent. It will soon sell at that $2000 level because there is no attempt to simulate humanity apart from the upper body and face.

Faulty movement on movies has been thoroughly replaced with humanoid motion in robots. We now have great realism, useful with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) children and many others in hospitals. The comfort of a nurse in hospital is familiar to many of us. To partly replace that individual with a 24 hour android seems a possible advance for medicine. To combine a powerful mobile (cell) phone with a responsive apparatus to help patient, lonely people or, conceivably, every child would create a Brave New World. What would the critics say to that?