It seems almost weekly now that I am reading yet another article from a website about the coming robot invasion. How they will take our jobs, invade our lives, and probably take over society. I have news for you. They’re already here. They have already become a part of our everyday lives. Many have lost their novelty, ceased being recognized as robots, and faded into the background, in a feat no more mystifying than the electricity that is piped into your home.
Perhaps its pop culture that has increased the hype of robots. Recently there was RoboCop, the almost bi-annual Transformers movie, and of course the filming of several more Star Wars episodes. There’s also the TV series, Almost Human, Battlestar Gallactica, and wait I’m sure there’s a few more that aren’t cartoons. Let me think….., no that’s about it. OK, I’m leaving out androids like Data on Star Trek, simply because robots are hard to put into TV. CGI in movies is way easier, because really, the robots we all envision like Data or C3-PO don’t exist yet, get back to me in around 2025. Other experts think if will be closer to 2050 before a robot soccer (Futbol) team could take on the Champion of the FIFA World Cup.
There are those pesky laws of physics that have to be overcome and some complex problems that need to be solved. Take a look at the recent DARPA Grand Robotics Challenge. The winner, Google’s Schaft, has to have it’s power supply external and tethered. The motors need to have their own cooling supply, and it has to learn about every new environment that it is put into. For some additional perspective, it’s been almost ten years since the DARPA autonomous vehicle challenge and Google’s cars have driven thousands of miles, I’ve yet to hear about what it does in snow and other adverse weather conditions when most of it’s sensors become compromised.
Robots are already here, though they can be difficult to recognize. They don’t always have a humanoid form. From the little trundlebot that takes carriages about a hospital to the PLC that is controlling hundreds of valves in a refinery. When objects become such a part of our lives and they lose their novelty, they cease being robots. Few people are wowed by Mr. Coffee anymore, but there he is every day, preparing a fresh hot cup of coffee, every morning. Similar robots are doing the mundane every day and we’ve allowed them to slip into the background.