The Robots Are Coming, The Robots Are Coming

Really. Robot advances are occurring faster than you may realize. Robots have been working in factories for years, and they're becoming more lifelike all the time.

Roomba (Roombae?) built by iRobot were perhaps the first robots to be sold specifically to work around the house. They do a great job sucking up cat hair, finding their nest when they need to eat (electricity), and they even bleat "oh-oh" when they get stuck under the couch. But they look like UFOs.

The University of Tokyo has demonstrated a robot that will pour tea from a bottle if you hold up a cup, and eventually it'll wash dishes; but it looks pretty geeky. Honda has created a humanoid robot programmed to walk, go up and down steps, and even sorta run; but it looks, well ... like a robot trying to look like a human.

If you want to see the future check out this humanoid robot from Anybot—it learned to walk. It wasn't programmed to do it, it learned. Sure it had software that let it learn, kinda like a baby when it's born comes with some software already installed, but it learned how to walk on its own. (The cables don't hold it up, they're data cables that connect to computers.) And while it has a vague 3CPO family resemblance, it moves like a human. A drunk one, perhaps, but human.

The most lifelike robot yet, called BigDog and built by Boston Dynamics, resembles a pack animal of some sort with human-looking legs—disturbingly like two skinny guys grappling, ready to wrestle. It (they?) can navigate autonomously over uneven terrain, and keep its feet in slippery snow, soggy mud, and uneven rocks. When pushed hard, kicked even, it hops sideways and stays on it's feet.

Remember that IBM-PC with square black 512k floppy disks, a black and green 40 line monitor? That was just 20 years ago. Technology is progressing at an accelerating rate, so consider what these guys will look like and be able to do in 20 years.

Betcha they won't tolerate being kicked. Heck, the ACLU will probably be on your case if you do!



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