21 September 2011
Reflection on “The Works: Robots”
The world of science fiction is beginning to become non-fiction in the world of robots.
Robotics experts, engineers, and computer experts are working on this amazing feat on many
fronts. Some engineers are building autonomous robots that drive cars; while others create tele-
presence robots that can help save lives. Robots are becoming more advanced as time moves on.
According to the video’s narrator, the definition he gives a robot is three words: Sense,
Think/Process, and Act. If it can do all three of those, it is a robot.
Robotics has made major leaps in the last few decades with the steadfast improvement of
computers and the imagination of their creators. AI, artificial intelligence, has made leaps and
bounds just in this past decade enough to create prototypes and operational autonomous dodging
robots which can be issued a command and do the rest without human control. An example is
that of the manufacturing robots in car companies. Their long arms flip and move cars while
installing the large parts to them. The leader in the style of manufacturing is Japan.
But the robots that are even more amazing are those who accomplish even more complex
tasks. For example, BOSS the autonomous robot which can drive a car. It can accomplish that
through multiple sensors arranged on the exterior of the vehicle while simultaneously
coordinating its location via GPS. But for now it still lacks the human ability to react with one
second. (BOSS can react in four seconds) Another interesting robot not only senses its
surrounding to its sides but reacts to every direction.
The Logger Helicopter is an advanced, AI driven helicopter which can react to objects
while doing whatever job it is required to do. The Logger can be a crop-duster for a farmer, but
its more impressive job lies with the military. It can create a three-dimensional image for
whatever it scans with its amazing camera. With every pass the image becomes more detailed
and can even detect a change in the scenery. Now if only this could be used for video game
Another type of robot is the human-controlled variety; these are also called tele-presence
robots. These robots are used to protect their human controllers or overcome specific problems.
Robots such as the robonaut, the space station repairing robot astronaut, can allow a repairman
on a system back in Florida do repairs on a spacecraft with great precision. The Da Vinci robo
surgeon allows for much greater accuracy on the operating table. It can make dime sized
incisions and do surgeries while the doctor operates it by a few small cameras the robot has.
Another interesting one is the BETH robo snake which can decide on its own wiggling technique
in order to get into tiny spots in rescue situations. While those three make tasks easier to
accomplish; the Packbot and Andros F6A are being manned by cops and soldiers to defuse
bombs and catch crooks. The Packbot is a small, auto stair climbing, treaded camera with a
microphone. It can get practically anywhere that its operator wants it to using its AI awareness to
heights and distances. The Andros meanwhile has a more explosive job in defusing bombs.
Equipped with four cameras placed around the robot, a 360 degree gripping claw, and a pan
disrupter it can find and move IEDs from their locations. Then it can give it a cool down with its
highly pressurized water gun that literally washes out the bomb in an instant.
Humanoid robots are created to have a familiar look to them, and act more like a human
then the others. The innocent looking KEEPON is one of these. This moving chick-like robot can
display human-like emotions and body language to the children interacting with it. While either
on auto or manual control, it can give special needs children something to play with that doesn’t
look intimidating. It has a camera which can be used to learn valuable lessons and facts about the
The MDS- Mobile, Dexterity, Social robot can emulate many human emotions with both
gestures and facial expressions. This robot can interpret and react to questions and reactions. But
this gives rise to the “Uncanny Valley” coined by a sociologist who studied the human reaction
to robots. His study found that up to a point humans love the more humanoid robots, but if they
are too human, they become scared or uncomfortable. Robots that look very much like humans
are called androids, which are rare in numbers but extremely advanced in their capabilities. They
can typically talk, walk, and do various simple operations. Luckily for us there’s no Terminators
out there, yet.
Last but not least are the Exo’s which stand for Exoskeletons. These robots are built for
soldiers or hikers to wear, in order to help them carry heavy objects and/or run very long ways
with objects. One exo is called the HULC which can actually read your body language so it may
be able to fluidly work with your body. Its light titanium alloy allows for the battery to weight
ratio to work which overcomes one of the field’s largest enigmas. Plus this suit can distribute its
weight to the ground very effectively; this allows for the super human strength, without immense
pressure on your body. A medical use for this technology is called the LOCOMAT. This exo
only encompasses your legs but helps spinal and brain damaged patients get the ability to walk
back by stimulating your brain to repair its own glitches and errors. It does this by handing the
patient over a treadmill and allowing for the robot to just run while the patient and doctor read
screens on how the test is going. Eventually, exos will be able to aid the paralyzed in walking
and help fix other problems.
Robots are beginning to walk, talk, and drive. With robots advancing at such a rapid
pace, we are beginning to catch up with the science fiction of old. This means science fiction
novelists need to begin to contemplating new ideas for engineers need some new lofty goals.
Luckily, they’ll have plenty of time while their car drives them places.