Commercial Robotics

The Future of Intelligent Robots

Posted 14 Feb 2004 at 19:01 UTC by steve Share This

There's a new CNET news article that gives a concise overview of the state of the robotics industry today. Nothing new or unexpected here - more robots than ever being used; Japan is the world leader in robotics with the US a distant second; military and space robotics are the highest profile right now; robots still aren't smart enough to replace humans.

which robots?, posted 14 Feb 2004 at 19:42 UTC by outsider » (Journeyer)

I must say that most of the things that are called robots, are not. The 'robots' that build cars are not robots. The police 'robots' are not robots. They are just excavators!. If some one says that the previous examples are robots, then he must agree that the vacuum cleaner is too. And my car is also a robot!, And my calculator, my clock... they are not, they are just machines!.

R2-D2 is a robot. The Mars express robot is a robot. Aibo and Qrio are robots. Robots must exhibit a reactive behavior and intelligence in some sense and not stay rigid without intelligence.
To understand this took me a long time and made me left IA for a long time...

1) Battlebots 2) job loss, posted 14 Feb 2004 at 21:57 UTC by roschler » (Master)

1) I agree with outsider about most robots you hear about, really being just complex machines.

On a lighter note, I sure wish that a TV show, at the level of popularity and broadcast frequency of "Robot Wars", would come along and cover more of the true robot competitions. Tech TV'S "Robot Wars" robots are pretty much remote controlled cars that bash into each other.

2) From the article:

"but robots replace jobs that are the kind of jobs that nobody wants to do or are good at doing."

The bigger threat to jobs isn't robots but advancements in AI in general. There are more jobs that aren't dangerous that could be replaced by more advanced computers with better problem solving capacity, then those that could be replaced by a more capable machine.

The fly in the ointment to this discussion is of course a full-fledged sci-fi type android that could replace us all, but that is not an immediate threat, where better A.I. is. Remember the considerable damage computers did, with just a handful of useful algorithms and simulations, to the middle manager job demographic.

Job loss II, posted 14 Feb 2004 at 22:08 UTC by roschler » (Master)

Lo and behold, I jump over to and there is a story on how the stage production Les Miserables, is replacing half it's musician staff with computer based synthesizers. This is being done to save about $5000 a week. Here's a link to the article.

Is it is or is it ain't?, posted 14 Feb 2004 at 23:50 UTC by motters » (Master)

From the above definition of "a robot" the current mars rovers cited in the article would hardly qualify for the term, and are far more closely allied to the radio controlled car-bots of robot wars. The NASA rovers so far are extremely heavily teleoperated by human intelligences from another planet (sounds a bit X-files, huh). It took the best part of a week for both rovers to even roll off their own landing pads, and that's not because they're just dim-witted it's because every decision and action is being specifically requested by NASA engineers.

Actually the word "robot" doesn't imply any intelligence or autonomous ability. It was just taken from a Czech word meaning "forced labour".

Robots, posted 15 Feb 2004 at 00:29 UTC by steve » (Master)

The problem with arguments over what's a robot and what isn't, is that "robot" doesn't seem to have any single, agreed upon definition. By most common dictionary definitions, industrial robots found in car factories and even the radio-controlled "battlebots" would qualify. But few actual robot builders would agree with most dictionary definitions of the term, prefering instead to use a sort of Platonic, science-fiction ideal of the robot like R2-D2 or Mr. Data.

At a recent DPRG get together where this topic came up, the point was made that one of the problems with defining the term "robot" is that it essentially is a science fiction term with which reality is slowly catching up. It was coined as part of a science fiction story (as was "robotics", as a term for the science of robots, some time later by Isaac Asimov in another story).

And, to make things worse, it seems that over time, the word robot has evolved a lot of different meanings to different people. To someone participating in Robot Wars, a robot is anything that looks a certain way regardless of its behavior. To a business, a robot may be any machine that can do work a human used to do. To a lot of us, it's an autonomous, if not sentient form of life. (if we have any students of General Semantics out there, robot would qualify for what Korzybski called a "multi-ordinal" term. He believed multi-ordinal terms could usually found as the root cause of most human arguments and disagreements).

I vote for "autonomous" as the differentiator, posted 15 Feb 2004 at 08:38 UTC by roschler » (Master)

I gave it some thought and I came to the same conclusion as steve. To me, a complex machine that has the ability to function autonomously, is a robot in my mind. Even if it communicates with a human, as long as the human is not responsible for dictating every low-level aspect of the machine's (robot) actions and behavior .

At some point of complexity we cross from robot into android, but there's a whole lot of sensor technology and lower level A.I. that comes before that threshold is reached. In addition, the term android has a heavy anthropomorphic connotation, and therefore many robots will never be considered androids because they're appearance and function will be very different from humans, even if they have superior A.I to other machines that are considered androids.

See more of the latest robot news!

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