Commercial Robotics

No Autonomous Mining Robots, says Minsky

Posted 16 Apr 2005 at 23:20 UTC by steve Share This

According to a CNEWS story on the recent International Symposium on Mine Mechanization and Automation we are decades away from fully autonomous mining robots. Marvin Minsky, who addressed the conference, said that while it was possible such machines could be built, his forecast was gloomy: "There isn't anything in the laboratory right now that is very promising". He notes that one of the problems is that companies today are financially incapable of doing long term research and development because it doesn't turn a fast profit for the stockholders. On the upside, tele-operated mining equipment is feasible and may be a good intermediate step toward full autonomy.

Mining, posted 16 Apr 2005 at 23:37 UTC by motters » (Master)

It probably hasn't happened yet because people in the mining industry aren't very tech savvy, and there may also be trade unions or industry regulations placing restrictions upon exactly how things can be done.

As far as mining goes I doubt that commonsense reasoning has much to do with the problem. For a tele-operated system one of the main problems will be getting the signal from a person sat at a desk to a robot deep underground. In underground situations there may be plenty of obstructions blocking radio communications, requiring some kind of umbilical cable to be trailed around.

related links, posted 17 Apr 2005 at 03:02 UTC by aplumb » (Journeyer)

why we dont do things like that, posted 18 Apr 2005 at 07:54 UTC by c6jones720 » (Master)

From working in robotic EOD circle for a while I would say that teleoperated robots are feasible for mining. My old next door neighbour actually did some work on teleoperated mining robots in the 1960's and 1970's he told me about it. I would say though that as with all things its probably a question of economics viability more than anything. Underground mining is at least as dangerous as humanitarian explosive demining, but I guess the cost of a human underground miner is less than that of a humanitarian deminer to a company. Its horrible to think like that but Im sure thats whats holding back development

R2-D2-49er and his daughter the Clementine orbiter, posted 19 Apr 2005 at 14:28 UTC by The Swirling Brain » (Master)

I think the only place robot miners will go is to the moon or asteroid or somewhere out there where humans can't stay. As dangerous a place as a mine shaft is, a robot would have to be smarter than a human for humans to trust it not to cause a cave-in (or drive a car, but I digress). I don't see that happening anytime soon. So dumb robots would have to be teleoperated and that doesn't free up or replace a miner. Robot teleoperated miners on earth are certainly technically possible, but why would a company spend millions developing or buying a robot that doesn't replace a miner or save them any money? The robot still has to be teleoperated by someone. Mining companies already have mining equipment which would be cheaper to use than letting the miners have the luxury to telecommute. So I guess you could say It's not really the robotic hardware technology that's holding mining robots back (teleoperating), although, if software brain technology was there, there'd be a lot of robots around not only in mining but everywhere else. AI4U can't program & prove his imagined ideas, therefore so far no one has a proven robotic brain that thinks for itself. And, therefore all we do is piddle with robots that bump into walls or hard-codedly (aka dumbly) pick up cans at best. ...still waiting for an AI breakthrough.

<marxist>, posted 20 Apr 2005 at 15:04 UTC by dogsbody_d » (Master)

There is a lot of point in teleoperated mining machinery. It means that you can optimise the workplace and the coalface separately. A human being needs oxygen and neat stuff like that. The robot miner doesn't. Also, what does it matter if an autonomous robot does cause a cave-in? You can dig them out.

The real answer as to why we won't get autonomous mining robots on Earth for some time is that children are cheaper and oh so much more expendable. From the big bosses point of view why replace cheap labour with an expensive machine and a highly trained technician? To save lives? Ha! </marxist> ;)

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