Robot development is an imminent market, with prototypes like Toyota’s trumpeter robot, Hitachi’s EMIEW perched on wheels, and, perhaps most advanced, Honda’s ASIMO. The ASIMO is similar to the others – modeled on Homo sapiens – but it also has the capacity to function, like the QRIO, except that it is a humanoid robot of real size. Funny how one of the biggest issues is battery life.
General Motors takes care of a car that drives itself, with a set of integrated sensors that tell it which components are present in the environment. The car reacts accordingly, without driver intervention. Hitachi, Toyota, and other similar companies believe that their robots will have important and specific uses, such as caring for the elderly or working in adverse conditions.
It’s easy to imagine robots like these blending into society: restaurateurs programming their robot servers to be snobs. The AIBO, with its latest M3 update, can read its emails, respond to a large number of verbal orders, and keep the house by recording movements thanks to its integrated video camera.
Although robots have not yet become as pedestrian as DVD players, they will likely become full members of society. A press release from the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe indicates that sales of robots for personal and private use are expected to increase exponentially over the next few years.
In particular, household robots such as vacuum cleaners and lawnmowers are expected to reach 15 million by the end of 2025. Likewise, circulating personal entertainment robots are expected to increase.
Advances in artificial intelligence (AI) have made possible a machine like Honda’s ASIMO – a machine that can move “autonomously” and interact meaningfully with its surroundings. However, “autonomous” is a misnomer. Behind the curtain, there is either a panel of remote spouses or a forced preprogramming.
The autonomy of robots has not been achieved in the context of high expectations. For some pressing reasons, AI has to solve problems that are currently inextricable. If left unresolved, the issues are of such importance that not only robot autonomy will be a challenge, but also obtaining human-like intelligence.
For starters, although programming has improved, robots currently lack the ability to accommodate the many unpredictable events of a world that humans easily overcome. This results in tribulations, such as simply going to the pharmacy in a busy city.
Called a “frame problem” – a loophole in AI programming – robots find it difficult to factor in sets of environmental variables when planning their future actions. They tend to simplify situations and expect most of them to be constant in their environment.
Thus, if they are to be independent, more powerful programming is rudimentary. It is essential and permanent to develop more effective reasoning models based on the human mind.
An example of research aimed at improving independence continues at the computer intelligence laboratory at the University of British Columbia. This lab has conducted tremendous research on a holistic blend of computer systems for intelligent applications.
Further research has resulted in the creation of a robot (SPINOZA) that combines and exploits these technologies. It locates itself by mapping its environment. The simultaneous localization and cartography (SLAM) coupled with the transformation of the invariant characteristics on the scale (SIFT) take credit for it, allowing the robot to quickly build new maps as they go. Objects that are viewed from different angles, or new objects that appear, are traded through these technologies. The sensors consist of a sonar, laser, and vision rangefinders.