Thursday, December 06, 2007

Our Days are Numbered!

Seriously. Our days are numbered. This video showcases three of Toyota's latest robotic wonders. I've always found the Honda ASIMO very cute. Now these three are very scary robots indeed.

The first, reminds me of Rosie the Robot Maid, from The Jetsons. It has a humanoid upper-torso on a wheeled base. It could be conceivably put to use, ferrying stuff around, and handling machines in any flat environment. I could see it being used in hospitals to wheel stuff around and even possibly automate the monitoring of patients. It's probably not quite suitable for the home as it cannot pass through narrow passageways.

The second, is very impressive. They demonstrated the robot's dexterity by getting it to play a tune on a real violin. It's only a matter of time before they get the mechanism down right for the robot to play some really complicated violin pieces. This is the robot that we should really be worried about. It's designed to replace humans an human tasks. It walks on two feet and so, can conceivably go anywhere a human can go. If it has sufficient finesse to play the violin, I'm sure that it can work other devices quite well too.

The third, is definitely useful. I can see it finding an application at home. It is more a slave robot, that can ferry people and stuff around. Now, it would be very interesting to see a few of these things moving together, like ducks in a row. It could ferry kids to and from school, help out with grocery shopping (or any other kind of shopping) and carry geriatrics and disabled people around. This is definitely something that is very useful to have around the house.

I've always lamented the fact that we've not had much progress in robotics for decades. After the major push in getting robots working in industrial settings, money stopped flowing into robotics. But now, it seems that Japan is moving ahead again. Large corporations are throwing money at the problem, to try to bring robots into the home. This is the cutting edge of robotics research and development.

From a technical stand-point, there are essentially two opposing frontiers of robotics. This is the example of one frontier, with complicated machinery performing delicate tasks. The other frontier of robotics is getting very simple machines to perform complex tasks. It seems that the Japanese have got a head-start on the former, but they don't seem to be focused on the latter.

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