Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Robots (first musings)

So when will we have robot servants (like Rosie the maid on the Jetsons)? Probably not this year, but clearly we are getting closer.

Already we can get autonomous robotic vacuums and robotic pets. The military, of course, uses teleoperated robots to spy from the sky and to find landmines. Robots -- albeit very specialized -- have long been at work in our factories.

Eons ago, when I started work on my computer science MS, to make a robot that could recognize and react properly to its environment was a huge problem -- PhD dissertation material. I shared an office with a guy whose PhD thesis involved a robot able to stack blocks. Not only was his robot physically huge, its questionable ability to model the real world necessitated that it move at a snail's pace for safety.

Now undergrads do robotics projects far more sophisticated than anything dreamed of by my office mate. See this article and its YouTube video, in which many of the robots are undergraduate projects. Watch the bots sense and react to their environments.

(I can't go without commenting on Robotuna. What a great name! "Sorry, Charlie. DARPA doesn't want tunas that taste good ...")

The maze-following robot in the video struck a chord with me. The artificial life in my novel Fools' Experiments was purposefully evolved by solving ever more elaborate mazes, involving progressively more dimensions and complex geometries.

Alas, my robot won't be here soon enough to spare me unloading the dishwasher.


Catreona said...

I'm still waiting for R. Daneal Olivaw, hunk that he is. LOL

Edward M. Lerner said...

To each, her own.

Catreona said...


Well, Asimov must have found Daneal(sp?) appealing, or he wouldn't have written so many stories about him.