This article is about the future of robotics for civil use.
Robots may soon be everywhere, in homes and at work. They could change the way humans live. If this happens, it will most likely raise many Artificial Intelligence Philosophy, social, and political questions that will have to be answered. In science fiction robots become so intelligent that they decide to take over the world because humans are deemed inferior. In real life however they might not choose to do that. Robots might follow rules such as Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics, that will prevent them from doing so. If the Singularity happens robots will be indistinguishable from human beings and some people may become Cyborgs, with some parts half biological and half artificial.
Types of Robots
Lara is the first humanoid robot with artificial muscles (metal alloy strands that instantly contract when heated by electric current) instead of electric motors (2006).
Asimo is one of the most advanced projects as of 2006.
Modular robots can be built from standard building blocks that can be combined in different ways.
- Utility fog.
- M-Tran - a snake-like modular robot that uses genetic algorithms to evolve walking programs
- Self replicating robots - modular robots that can produce copies of themselves using existing blocks.
- Swarmanoid is a project that uses 3 specialized classes of robots (footbots, handbots and eyebots) to create an effective swarm. Such swarm should be able, for example, to tidy a bedroom with each robot doing what it is best at.
Educational toy robots
Educational toy robots
- caterpillar plans to develop remote controlled machines and expects to develop fully autonomous heavy robots by 2021 Some cranes already are remote controlled.
- It was demonstrated that a robot can perform a herding task.
- Robots are increasingly used in manufacturing (since 1960s). In auto industry they can amount for more than half of the "labor". There are even "lights off" factories such as an IBM keyboard manufacturing factory in Texas that are 100% automated.
- Robots such as HOSPI are used as couriers in hospitals, etc. Other hospital tasks performed by robots are receptionists, guides and porters helpers, (not to mention surgical robot helpers such as Da Vinci)
- Robots can serve as waiters and cooks
Given that in the next two decades robots will be capable of replacing humans in most manufacturing and service jobs, economic development will be primarily determined by the advancement of robotics. Given Japan's current strength in this field, it may well become the economic leader in the next 20 years (part 1, part 2). Marshall Brain also discusses the emergence of robotic economy
Today's market is not fully mature. One or more software compatibility layers have yet to emerge to allow the development of a rich robotics ecosystem (similar to today's personal computers one). Microsoft is currently working in this direction with its new software Microsoft Robotics Studio. Other candidates to reach this goal might be Free Software solutions such as Player/Stage or cross-platform technologies such as URBI.
Developments related to robotics from the NISTEP
2030 report :
Robotics in 2020
Robots may be commonplace: in home, factories, agriculture, building & construction, undersea, space, mining, hospitals and streets; for repair, construction, maintenance, security, entertainment, companionship, care.
Purposes of these Robots:
- Robotized space vehicles and facilities
- Anthropomorphic general-purpose robots with hands like humans used for factory jobs - Intelligent robots for unmanned plants - Totally automated factories will be commonplace.
- Robots for guiding blind people and home automation for the elderly and disabled.
- Robots for almost any job in home or hospital, including Robo-surgery.
- Housework robots for cleaning, washing, transporting etc - Domestic robots will be small, specialized and attractive (= cuddly).
Properties of these robots:
- Autonomous, with environmental awareness sensors .
- Self recharging, self diagnostic and self repairing.
- More sophisticated artificial brains, perhaps with ten thousand or more cells, combined with electronic circuits.
Legal rights for robots?
According to research commissioned by the UK Office of Science and Innovation's Horizon Scanning Centre , robots could one day demand the same citizen's rights as humans. The study also warns that the rise of robots could put a strain on resources and the environment.