Can You Love A Robot

Lollypop
Pew Research reports that by 2025, “Robotic sex partners will be commonplace.”



While I certainly understand loving (new helpful) technology, actually making love to a machine is taking things a little too far.



Even with great advances in artificial intelligence (AI), a robot can be nothing more than an artificial partner…a humanoid is not a human!



Despite portrayals in the movie Her (2013) of a nerdy writer who falls in love with his life-like operating system, the reality of human and machine love is more a desperate call for companionship and understanding than a real connection of equals–physically, intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. 



While a computer may be programmed to say the things you want to hear, to laugh at your jokes, and even to succumb to your advances, love cannot be programmed or even artificially learned. 



The complex dynamics between two real people locked-in the emotional roller coaster of life with its ups and downs, pulling together and pushing apart, of shared experiences, challenges, and conflicts, can only be met head on with a best friend, soulmate, diametric opposite, and at the same time congruent equal. 



Only another human being can love you and be your love.



A machine, however beautiful designed, charming, and learning of you, can be just a poor surrogate for the sad person screaming out for connection in a large lonely world. 😉



(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Advertisements

Robots Taking Your Job

Robot

Don’t get too comfortable in your job.

Yes, the economic realities of high spending are about to catch up with the country and that will threaten your livelihood, but even more than that Robots can probably do your job better than you–sooner or later. 

Wired Magazine (24 December 2012) has a great article on this called “Better Than Humans.

In the 1800’s, when 70% of the working population did agricultural work, probably no one would have believed what the future had in store for this occupation–today with automation, only 1% do this work.

Similarly, today 80% of jobs are in the service sector, and people think they are on safe ground–but think again!

Make no mistake robots will replace or drastically alter your current job, as artificial intelligence, processors, memory, sensors, learning, communication, dexterity, and humanoid likeness all continue to advance.

Wired presents the 7 Stages of Robot Replacement (to which I’ve added my notes in parenthesis):

1. Robots cannot do what I do (denial).

2. Robots can do some of what I do, but not all (partial acceptance).

3. Robots can do what I do, but they break done (rationalization for the loss, and so do we “break down”).

4. Robots operate flawlessly on repetitive tasks, but need training for new ones (you weren’t born knowing everything were you?). 

5. Robots can have my old job, because it’s not fit for humans anyway (acceptance with a large dose of resignation–“the train has left the station”).

6. Robots can have my old job, because my new job will be better (maybe for the time being). 

7. Robots cannot do what I do now (the cycle of employment safety from automation starts anew). 

Let’s face it–your special, but so is technology and the pace of advancement is extraordinary. 

For those of you in jobs that you feel could only be done by humans–Wired has some news about developments with robots doing the once unthinkable:

– Musicians–Georgia Tech has developed Shimon the musician; these robots can not only play violin and trumpets, but they can form a band, and they can improvise (“as if it’s a musician with a soul!).

– Therapists–Mindmentor has an AI therapist that after a 1-2 hour session made patients feel their “problem was 47% solved.”

– Artists–Vagobot has made hundreds of pictures and “even sold some to Crate & Barrel.”

– Comedians–Aldebarab Robotics makes robots for all sorts of jobs, including entertainment–they can sense audience reaction (such as laughter or silence) and adjust topics accordingly.

– Professional Trainers–The Intermational Conference on Social Robots in 2011 presented a robot that could coach you on your exercise, sense your form, and correct it. 

– Teachers–University Of Southern California has developed a robot teacher that in 2 weeks helped preschoolers increase vocabulary mastery by 25%.

– Nurses–Aethon makes the TUG nurse robot that is “picking up and delivering medication and supplies, autonomously navigating hospital hallways…summon an elevator, wait in line, and politely roll aside to give hemorrhaging humans priority access.”

– Athletes–Robocup compete robots that one day can be “capable of winning against the human  soccer World Cup champions.

So what will be left for humans to do–innovate, invent, build, operate, and maintain the next level of breakthrough automation to help people–maybe these are the best and most-rewarding jobs that any of us can hope to have. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal, Ft. Lauderdale Discovery and Science Museum)

Dance Robot, Dance!

This robot has rhythm and can dance Gangnam Style.

It is called CHARLI-2 (Cognitive Humanoid Autonomous Robot with Learning Intelligence–Version 2).

Charlie was developed by Virginia Tech’s Robotics and Mechanisms Laboratory (RoMeLa).

At five feet tall, CHARLI is the United States’ “first full-size humanoid robot.”

Charlie can do things like walk, turn, kick, and gesture–he is agile and coordinated–and as you can see can even dance and also play soccer!

One of the things that makes CHARLI special is his stabilization technology–where it can orient itself using sensors such as gyroscopes.

According to Wired Magazine (19 October 2012), The Office of Naval Research has provided a grant of $3.5M to CHARLI’s creator to develop a nextgen robot called the Autonomous Shipboard Humanoid (ASH) to work aboard Navy ships in the future and interact with humans.

CHARLI won the Time Magazine “2011 Best Invention of the Year” as well as the Louis Vuitton Best Humanoid Award.

While the CHARLI robots still move relatively slowly, are a little awkward, and are almost in a child-like “I dunno state,” we are definitely making exciting progress toward the iRobot of the future–and I can’t wait till we get there.

For me, I see the potential and this robot can certainly dance circles around me, but that’s not saying much. 😉

Baxter Disappoints

This new robot named Baxter, by Rethink Robots, is practically being touted as the greatest thing since Swiss cheese–“allowing our people to use their minds more than their hands”–but this demonstration video shows a clumsy and awkward robot instead.

Bloomberg BusinessWeek (18 September 2012) actually calls it a “huge disappointment” and I’ve got to agree.

The product manager in video calls Baxter–developed with $62 million over 5 years–“easy,” “complaint,” and “collaborative,” but unfortunately Baxter, the robot, comes off looking anything but as he slowly and laboriously tries to pick up and move items from one location to another, and the product manager pulls his arms and pocks at his screen/face to program it.

While I am a huge fan of robotics and see their potential to transform our society–where robots can becomes surrogates for humans in everything from work to even odd companionship, I do not see the breakthrough here by Rethink Robots–except in the affordability of this robot to be used in manufacturing for only $22,000 a unit.

What I do like about Baxter is that it is generally a good-looking device–with a solid looking grey base and long 9 foot wingspan red stretch arms. I even sort of like the eyes and brows giving it a humanoid nature, but the quirky and flimsy looking red screen hanging off the main body looks chinsy.

Also, if the robot is so “friendly,” you’d almost expect it to be on wheels and mobile with the ability to speak, so that it could more genuinely interact with others, but it does not.

Baxter is the brainchild of one of the pioneers of the Roomba vacuum–another toyish device that I wouldn’t spend a dime on.

Maybe, the way to look at it is that we need to take baby steps before we get the real iRobots coming to us–and hopefully that day will come soon.

>Meet ATLAS

>

Atlas

This is amazing (watch the whole thing)!

Meet the latest and greatest military humanoid robot from Boston Dynamics–Atlas (aka PETMAN).

(Boston Dynamics is the same company that makes BigDog, the 4 legged, ground transport robot, that looks like a mule–called the Legged Squad Support System, LS3)

Watch the movement of the Atlas robot–it is JUST like a person: heel to toe walking.

See what happens when you push it–Atlas reacts/recovers like a human would.

The built up version has hands that help it balance and squeeze through tight spaces.

BusinessWeek (March 7-13, 2011) explains that this robot will be used initially for surveillance and emergency rescue missions.
I’m thinking Atlas should be pronounced like “at last” to recognize the amazing leap forward in robotics.

This is great stuff–and it demonstrates our growing understanding of not only computers and robotics, but also of the physical and behavioral sciences.