Sunday, March 5, 2017

Amazing robot does NOT wash your dishes!

Wired Magazine online (www.wired.com) alerted me to Boston Dynamics' new robot, Handle. It is a biped on wheels that spins and jumps, squats, and avoids obstacles, racing even while carrying 100 pounds!


When I show her this amazing robot video, Marlene asks me: "What does it do? Will it do my dishes?"

No, that's not a robot. That's a maid, or a husband... sometimes. (Notice I didn't say "wife," for obvious reasons.)

A robot is simply a programmable machine like your heater/AC thermostat, washing machine, and your current dishwasher....

Actually, the correct term for a robot that looks and acts human is an android. Since any android that could really pass as human would have an incredible programmed intelligence, they would be far too valuable to work as a dishwasher. Sorry. Overpopulated humanity, begging for jobs to feed their growing families, are stuck with the cheap menial labor, slaves to the smarter robots. Or maybe not. It is possible that advances in computer and mechanical technology could make robots inexpensive enough that they could be cost-effective as your housekeeper. But then, if mechanicals are smart enough to do our jobs, what are we biologics smart enough to do for employment? Queue another bad Sci-Fi movie.

Handle, the robot in the video, is brainless in the sense of performing a job (and likely blind, too). However, Handle, the machine, is beautifully programmed to stand on two legs and move rapidly and elegantly without falling down--in places where only humans can go now. That's what it does. That alone is unique and impressive. But it's only a start.

If bipedal robots like Handle can be made cheaply, then eventually "smarts" can be added. To be our servants, they'd need vision and obstacle recognition (more complex, even, than the self-driving cars now cruising our streets). They'd have to respond to voice control, but not just anyone's. You'd want them to understand to obey police or other authority, delay their goal in an emergency, and interact with merchants as they do your shopping. But you wouldn't want them to respond obediently to hooligans or thieves they encounter.

But even without those "smarts," a small bipedal robot that can stand on two legs and maneuver your home and neighborhood could find use as a children's toy (a little baby T-Rex toy that follows you around or is walked on a leash?). With only marginal improvements Handle-like robots could be roving parking lot security cameras. Or be controlled remotely to enter dangerous situations. And, yes, someday, maybe, it could be programmed to wash your dishes and do your shopping.

Far-fetched? Maybe. But don't tell that to the Virginia State Legislature. They just approved a law allowing said robots to deliver your groceries using public sidewalks.