Household robots: smart, loyal, humanoid 'bots here by 2020

June 24 2008 / by futuretalk
Category: Technology   Year: General   Rating: 10 Hot

By Dick Pelletier

Imagine a machine that sets the table, creates and serves dinner, cleans house, and never complains. This may sound like something out of The Jetsons, but in labs everywhere, scientists believe that one day, we will share our homes with loyal robot servants that enthusiastically tackle mundane chores, freeing us for more fulfilling activities.

Carnegie Mellon’s Hans Moravec believes that by 2020, we will create robots in humanoid form, able to express reasoning and emotion, and eager to perform household tasks. These “smart” machines will walk the dog, put groceries away, find and fetch things, mimic human feelings of compassion and love, and become friends with family members.

2020s robots will appear amazingly human-like. Moravec suggests they could be powered by fuel cells that are cooled by a squeeze pump which beats like a heart while circulating alcohol as a coolant. They would “drink wine” for fuel, and breathe air like humans.

Design tricks like these, along with soft “nanoskin” will make tomorrow’s ‘bots seem uncannily human, encouraging us to perceive them as friends. Author Ray Kurzweil says tomorrow’s ‘droids could quickly learn to flesh out positive feelings, which would provide an allure difficult for humans to resist.

How about robo-love? Jason Nemeth, in his essay, Should Robots Feel, believes love-companion robots will be practical in the future and could easily fill the role of a partner, satisfying our intimacy needs. Nemeth is not sure whether human/robot love would experience higher success rate than love between two humans; but he says technologies will unlock the possibilities, and human curiosity will make it happen. (cont.)

Experts suggest the following timetable for robot development:

2008. Successes by Roomba vacuum cleaners, robot pets, and driverless cars from DARPA’s Grand Challenge, reveal the fledgling robot industry’s enormous profit potential.

2015. Moravec envisions crude machines that although frustrating at times, perform some household chores and assist seniors and children.

2020. ‘Bots prepare meals, set tables, clean house, provide interface to communication and entertainment systems, strengthen security, and develop friendships with family members.

2025. Robots are coming closer to matching human mental capabilities for performing in the real world. They can act as guides, escorts, check out groceries, and assume most home management duties. Robot abuse has prompted Congress to pass an android civil rights bill.

2030. Kurzweil predicts that by the 2030s, robots will surpass human intelligence and could help solve many of society’s problems.

Futurists believe we have already entered the early stages of a cyborg society that some predict will not end until man and machine become one. Today, artificial pets befriend children, and self-operating machines clean homes. By mid-2030s our silicon cousins will outthink us, which many experts predict, will spark the first efficient two-way human-machine intelligence transfers.

These advanced technologies will enable us to access intelligence directly from robot “brains”, marking the start of “human-machine” merges. Robots will become more like us, and by accessing their intelligence, we will become more like them.

Some wonder where this technology will take us. Clearly our robotics journey winds around some unknown, possibly even dangerous turns; but strong commercial support guarantees that we will one day experience this amazing “magical future”

How would you personally use a household robot in 2020?

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Comment Thread (3 Responses)

  1. I’m not sure about the “Android civil rights bill”. They won’t need protecting until they achieve the intelligence of household pets, and then they should be protected under the same rights anyway. Will lead to some interesting debates (one of the “Masters of Science Fiction” episodes tackled this very well.)

    Another point I’ll make is that I can see the robotics industry take a huge accellerating upturn in the near future, that isn’t anticipated by this timeline. We’re on the verge of a robotics explosion. About time!

    Posted by: StuartDobson   June 24, 2008
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  2. StuartDobson, I believe the Android Civil Rights Bill mentioned in the article to protect robots would be appropriate for 2020s ‘bots. Even though our artificial machines at this time may not have enough intelligence to feel being abused by humans, the acts that human abusers would practice as they abused their “machines” may be unacceptable by society. The laws may be enacted to prevent these bad human actions.

    You are correct about robotics taking a huge upturn in the near future. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute researchers believe their artificial intelligent creation will pass a limited version of the Turing test in October of this year.

    Using the world’s fastest supercomputer RPI scientists will control avatars in a virtual world – probably Second Life. Both the synthetic character and his human doppelganger will be operating different avatars. If the human-operators can’t tell who the RPI synthetic character is, then it passes the Turing test.

    You can see the complete article here: http://www.positivefuturist.com/default-blog.asp?Display=745

    Comments welcome.

    Posted by: futuretalk   June 24, 2008
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  3. Sorry, wrong link on previous comment. Here is the correct one: http://www.positivefuturist.com/default-blog.asp?Display=744

    Posted by: futuretalk   June 24, 2008
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