May 26 2008 / by futuretalk
Category: Technology Year: General Rating: 6 Hot
By Dick Pelletier
Personal robots have been a long time coming, but scientists now say we can expect revolutionary machines that surpass human physical and intellectual abilities within 22 years.
Today’s robots are mostly industrial types found in factories. An example would be an arm that inserts a product into a box and places it on a conveyor belt. Domestic robots in the service area – vacuum cleaners, lawn mowers, and security systems – are just beginning to find their way into homes. UN statistics show worldwide robotics sales increasing by double digits every year, which has encouraged a host of companies to invest aggressively in robotic products.
Robo-pets like Sony’s Aibo and NEC’s PaPeRo, priced from $2,000 to $5,000, are pleasing children and providing companionship for handicapped and elderly people around the globe. Available soon in the $10,000 to $30,000 range will be human-like robots such as Sony Qrio, Honda Asimo, and Toyota Personal Robot. These realistic marvels can speak and understand crude language, recognize family members by sight, and perform many butler, chef, and maid services.
European scientists, inspired by human biology, have created the world’s first shape-shifting robot. This amazing machine has the ability to morph into different shapes. It can start off as a small car with four wheels. If it approaches an impassible wall, it searches for a hole or crack and transforms itself into a snake. After passing through the hole, it might encounter a staircase where it would transform into a climbing device, go up the stairs, and then become a car again. (cont.)
Henrik Lund, of Maersk Institute in Denmark where these shape-shifting robots are being developed believes they could eventually reduce the machines to nano-size and go inside a human body to make medical repairs. The Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) has expressed interest in shape-shifting robots to perform hazardous duties on the battlefield.
In a Nova interview, Carnegie Melon researcher Hans Moravec stated that by 2030, advanced robots will surpass human intelligence and could actually help us evolve into the future. When these Mind Children, as Moravec calls them, become aware of our world and social interactions, they will develop a human-like consciousness. He believes these robots will eventually gain the ability to replicate themselves, and increase their intelligence with each succeeding generation. This will cause an explosive increase of information unlike anything the world has ever seen.
Critics to this optimistic future believe there could come a time when these cunning creatures understand us better than we understand ourselves and they will manipulate us – maybe even replace us. But advocates disagree. Entrepreneur and best selling author, Ray Kurzweil asserts that robots are a human creation, and tomorrow’s super-intelligent versions will simply merge with us and become the next step in our evolution.
Could we evolve into a human-cyber being? Absolutely, say futurists. By mid-2030s, we could be swapping frail biological bodies for powerful, immortal silicon versions. Applied Mind’s Danny Hillis says, “I’m as fond of my body as anyone, but if I can be 200 with a body of silicon, I’ll take it.”