How Robots are Transforming the World

Robots aren’t just characters in science fiction movies anymore. Robots are being used in many different industries for many different uses. Some of the more exciting uses of robots are in the fields of military, medical, and human care. This article focuses on how robots are being used to transform the world.

Transportation Robots

Google’s new autonomous cars that drive themselves in traffic to a specific destination would be a great way to facilitate the mobility of elderly people. My grandmother, for instance, has to call a Dart bus whenever she wants to visit somewhere by herself since she cannot drive herself. When these robot cars are ready for mass production, it will surely grant elderly people more freedom and independence…it will also give the rest of the driving population one less thing to stress out about since they won’t be tailgating drivers who always go 10 miles under the speed limit. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cdgQpa1pUUE

Helpful Robots in Human Care

First, a couple of examples of what could eventually become robot babysitters:

 

Hanson Robotics is creating robots with realistic facial impressions

The Geminoid DK mimics the movements of its operator. It extremely realistic looking and it actually performs the act of breathing

They’re a bit freaky in my opinion. The robot’s lips sync up to words. Once they develop these robots to walk and “see” via a video camera, you’ve got a robot babysitter that looks like a kid’s parent. Further, once the robot has the functionality to perform basic childcare functions, the robot would not only look like a kid’s parent – it could actually be a child’s parent. Honestly, I don’t think that’s a great idea for a developing child. It just seems to me that it will give a child an unrealistic view of the world. Children should not develop basic trust from a robot.

Plus, if this robot automates the majority of the trivial processes involved in raising a child, what’s to become of the role of a parent? TV is notorious for raising children these days, but think what life would be like if a robot fed, cleaned, and rocked a baby to sleep at night? Parents everywhere would just sit around and play Farmville all night while tweeting about how easy it is to raise a child. The real question is are these robots truly helping us or just making people everywhere lazier?

Finally, virtual pets are coming down the pike. It’s true: robots that look and act like pets. They even interact with their owners. We’ve all heard that having a pet is good for an elderly person’s mental health. However, this is a suitable alternative for owners that have special needs and are not able to own a real pet.

Further, people usually outlive their pets, so this is a great way to gain the benefits, such as companionship and other therapeutic services, but not deal with the realities of death. The question isn’t really can humans truly bond with AI robots, but should they? What if a child had this type of robot as a pet? It would probably be harder to understand life and death when the child’s best friend is an immortal furry metal robot…

There’s definitely value in automating truly trivial tasks such as vacuuming or cleaning a pool. The iRobot Roomba 560 Robotic Vacuum Cleaner is a great way elderly people can clean their house and play with their cats! Finally, cats can clean up their own hairballs. The iRobot Verro Pool Cleaning Robot would be especially useful for an elderly person because strenuous activity could be a health risk. However, that dependency on robots could certainly be detrimental to human health and wellbeing in the long run due to inactivity.

Military & Firefighting Robots

A lot of advances have been made in regards to military robots. These Exoskeleton Robotic Suits (AKA the suit that turns you into a real Iron Man) are a really great example: Read more about the XOS 2 robotics suit.

There’s surly a line between “right” and “wrong” we should consider. For instance, Robokiyu is robot created by the Tokyo Fire Department; its original purpose was to help rescue people asphyxiated by smoke inhalation inside burning buildings. Obviously, this task can be dangerous for fire fighters, so this robot is very helpful. However, when officials realized how versatile this robot could be, they started using it for other duties…such as moving corpses and “dormant” (AKA drunk) people. I think this robot proves it that robots should not be involved in certain processes, despite how helpful they may seem. Shouldn’t the sanctity of death be treated with a little more dignity and respect? Likewise, could you imagine passing out drunk and waking up inside a robot’s belly?

Read more at: http://www.weirdasianews.com/2008/04/20/robot-scooper/

Ethics – where do we draw the line?

If a malfunction occurred, should the corporation that created and sold the robot should be held responsible? Shouldn’t the corporation have tested the robot to always work properly? Obviously, if the consumer didn’t follow the instructions and caused the problem, it would probably void the warranty and any ensuring law suits. I feel that there really needs to exhaustive testing. With software, you can just fix bugs as they occur with relatively minimal repercussions. However, robots have physical power which could potentially injure or kill someone.

Who do you think should be held responsible if there is a problem with one of these robots? The engineers, programmers, corporation, consumer? 

Do you know of any other interesting robots? What are some of the ethical and safety considerations that robots create? Do you have any predictions about how robots will change society? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.