The introduction of the robot isn’t anything new. Toy robots, such as Japan’s “Lilliput,” have existed since World War II. Of course, these robotic toys only looked the part. They didn’t have any self-automated controls. They couldn’t perform any tasks. Their capabilities were confined to the limits of a child’s imagination.
Fast forward to today, where innovations such as JIBO, the “World’s First Social Robot” are catching the attention of people far and wide. In fact, JIBO just successfully raised $3,711,209 on Indiegogo.com, and has gained a massive following because of its promise of being able to see, hear, learn, speak, help, and even relate. If JIBO lives up to its promise, it’ll be the closest thing the modern age has to The Jetson’s robotic housekeeper, Rosie.
As technology progresses, innovators are finding new ways to build the ultimate robot. Face recognition, for example, has worked wonders as a tool for tagging family members on Facebook. But it can also be used as a way for robots (like JIBO) to respond to stimuli as if it were a sentient being.
Archaic robotic toys such as the Lilliput looked like what our ancestors envisioned a “real robot” to look like. Today’s robotic toys are more advanced and varied. The MiP, for example, is a more lighthearted take on the robot look. Using similar technology found in Segways, MiP is an 8-inch-tall robot that travels around on two wheels. It incorporates similar technology to what can be found on entertainment consoles like the Wii, making it possible to control the robot with hand motions.
And while MiP is designed to be a toy, robots aren’t just about fun and games. The iRobot Create 2 is like the Lego or K’Nex of the modern age. It’s dubbed as the DIY platform for budding innovators. It uses the same types of sensors and behaviors as the Roomba 600 Series vacuum cleaner (which wowed the world with its ability to vacuum a room on its own). It also features drill holes and mount brackets on its shell, allowing for the introduction of new hardware, such as speakers, a camera, or virtually anything else.
iRobot Create 2’s versatility seems to be a key in the modern design of robots. Even the JIBO, for example, has gained popularity because of its “open platform.” In other words, when you purchase the JIBO or iRobot Create 2, you’re purchasing a product that will likely grow and adapt as new applications are introduced. Think of these robots like a smartphone. By itself, the smartphone is an incredible piece of machinery. But the smartphone is far more useful – and attractive – thanks to all of the apps designed by 3rd-party developers.
That’s what seems to be happening with the modern-day robot.
Back when immobile toy robots were the closest we had to the “real thing,” people feared that robots would one day take over the world.
While that fear has yet to be realized, we do see glimpses of it now. Automatic tolls on the highway, ATMs, and self-checkout registers are just a few examples of how robots are taking over jobs once performed by humans.
Robots have even taken over creative-based tasks, such as filmmaking. For the movie Gravity, director Alfonso Cuarón used highly advanced robotic arms (designed for factory automation) to wield cameras, lights, props, as well as actors George Clooney and Sandra Bullock.
Robots have also found their way into warfare. Take, for example, Boston Dynamic’s AlphaDog robot. AlphaDog is designed to carry the heavy gear typically carried by military squad members. The robot is designed to autonomously follow troops through rugged terrain, and can interpret both visual and verbal commands.
The AlphaDog robot is so advanced that it features a quiet power supply that supports most stealthy tactical operations.
Technology, as a whole, is meant to improve our lives. That mission becomes extremely evident in robots such as the Mobiserv robot companion. Designed for older adults, this vision-enabled robot is equipped with cameras, sensors, and a touchscreen interface. It can interact with users in a number of ways, such as reminding them to take their medicine, prompt them to go for a walk, or suggest to them that they have their favorite drink.
By definition, a robot is a machine that’s capable of carrying out a complex series of actions automatically. With that definition in mind, the reality is that robots have existed for decades. However, thanks to modern technology, we’re beginning to see robots that look and act the way that our grandparents might have envisioned.
And although the future has finally arrived, the amazing thing is that technology will continue to improve. Robots will become more refined, and capable of performing more advanced actions we once thought impossible for an inanimate object.
If robots today can recognize your face and tell you a story, imagine what’s in store even 20 years from now. Perhaps by then, we’ll look at the JIBO as nothing more than a child’s toy.