February 25, 2014
Little by little, robots are becoming more and more a part of people’s daily lives. Sure, they might not always be noticed, nor are they always what we imagine robots to be like, but they are there, helping us along. As robotic technology continues to advance, I wonder just what sort of robots we are most likely going to see. Will they be like in Star Wars, where robots are hardly human-looking but perfectly designed for their specific purpose, or will they be more akin to robots in Blade Runner that appear so completely human that it begins to blur the line of what it actually means to be human? More importantly, will Harrison Ford be there to save us all when chaos starts to unfold?
Personally, I think we will most likely start seeing a combination of both. There will certainly be robots that look nothing like a human being but are able to do things humans do not possess the ability to do, but we will also start seeing some very human-like robots in terms of appearance as well as personality – such as ERWIN, mostly used for the purposes of positively reinforcing relations between humans and machines.
This concept took a large step forward recently as Google purchased eight different robotics firms including Meka Robotics, Boston Dynamics, and Redwood Robotics. Meka Robotics has always specialized in human-like robotics (most notably human-sized limbs and heads) and is most known for their famous M1 Mobile Manipulator. Boston Dynamics has always dealt in more military applications of robotics and Redwood Robotics lends its focus to more human-appearing designs stemming from the artistic talents of the company’s original founders. Individually, these companies, some of which were actually joint ventures with other companies at one time, were each only able to do baseline productions of their products. Each sale would give them funding for their next project, which would then fund their next project, and so on. With Google now merging these companies together, granting them funding and resources they did not have access to previously, who knows what new innovations in robotics technology we will soon be seeing.
Just with Meka Robotics, Boston Dynamics, and Redwood Robotics alone, combining advanced mobile platforms on a human scale with military potential and human aesthetics, this makes we wonder if we might be looking at Robocop or even Terminator-like units, all sporting the Google logo on their chassis — an amusing, if not slightly horrifying, thought.
Of course, all joking and classic 80’s sci-fi movie references aside, the future of robotics is looking very bright. As of the time of writing, Google has not announced what plans they have for purchasing these eight companies, but I look forward to seeing what they are going to be doing with them. Just so long as they stay away from robotic-overlord technologies. I would say they should take a page out of I, Robot, but then again, that did not turn out all that good for them, either.
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