Saturday, July 22, 2006

These are the droids you're looking for.

For a long time, bipedal locomotion was the Holy Grail of robotics. I recall seeing documentaries less than ten years ago of lumbering prototypes that didn't dare go too fast or maneuver too much for fear of falling over. But a monumental jump in technological advancement today gives us robots like Honda's running Asimo and Sony's dancing Qrio.

Watching video of a quartet of Qrios dancing is almost surreal. Many of us these days are desensitized to the concept of humanoid robots, but even when looking at them it's always in the back of our minds that there's either a human under all that metal making it move so, well, human-like, or it's some danged good CGI. With the Qrio, I had to keep reminding myself that these were real robots. Though they may be following very specific programming, there are no strings or remote controls.

And they're still more coordinated dancers than I.

With computer memory and processing power growing exponentially every year, it's not too hard to imagine that very life-like robots with, albeit mimicked, personalities, knowledge and, maybe, even emotions, will be commonplace. And how long after that will it be before we have advocates for "robot rights."

It may seem silly, or like something out of science fiction (I, Robot comes to mind), but all it will take is a small group of people becoming attached to their robot companions and concerned over their status in society. When you combine the power of the Asimo or Qrio with the technology of the Mars Rover and the self-sustainability of EcoBot, who's to say how far people will go in anthropomorphicizing robots?

A hat tip to Fark that links to this list of the "top ten most likely candidates to find Sarah Connor."


At 5:23 AM, July 23, 2006, Blogger Billiam said...

That was way cool. Thanks for that. It's nice to experience the wonder I felt at such when I was a child. You da man!


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