Robot maids – the PR2
The PR2 can pick up objects, fold laundry and open doors but easily gets bewildered by the unexpected.
The Personal Robot or the PR2 as it is called, can also open doors and bring cups, plates and other small objects to people.
Its price tag is a mere $US400,000 for the fully functional version. It is amazing to watch but it gets easily confused.
At a recent demonstration, one of the PR2s dropped a soft-drink can on the floor and just stood there, baffled. It couldn’t work out what had happened to the can. As if it thought the can had just vanished .
It is hard to know how many robots are in use because roboticists disagree on what a robot is. Must it have arms, or artificial intelligence, or facial recognition? The earliest definition of the word, which comes from the Czech word robota, means ”forced labour”, or ”slave”.
Robotics companies give various estimates for the numbers of robots in use. Whatever the numbers, people think robots will become a lot more mainstream in the near future.
They point to the Roomba – a robotic vacuum cleaner – and other robots made by iRobot, which the company says are already cleaning floors, pools and gutters in more than 8 million homes and offices. The US Army has robots to disarm bombs on the battlefield. And an intimidating robot, BigDog, made by Boston Dynamics, is being built to replace some soldiers in battle.
Roboticists say the price of these machines will drop sharply, which, in turn, will make the use of robots in homes and offices more widespread.
Some say the next wave of robots to enter homes and the workforce will be the telepresence machines. These have a built-in screen and camera and are, in essence, mobile video-chatting terminals that can be controlled from thousands of kilometres away.
Soon it is also predicted that these lively gadgets will be given more-functional bodies, including arms, so they can interact in a physical sense.
Robert Bauer, an executive director at Willow Garage, the creators of these machines, said, ”today’s telepresence robots let you be somewhere. When you add arms to these things, they will let you act somewhere, too. I think these robots are going to be huge, as they let people warp space and time, letting them be somewhere that they’re not, without the cost and time of a flight and says computers were once seen as exotic machines”.
In the early 1970s, he says, Xerox PARC developed sophisticated computers that cost several hundred thousand dollars. These machines paved the way for today’s personal computers.
”Now, 40 years later, everyone has a PC and smartphone in their home and office,” Bauer says. ”The same is happening now with robots.”
He predicts that the first wave of robots will probably become ”the body for people with physical disabilities”.
Wounded warriors, quadriplegics and people with Lou Gehrig’s disease, a degenerative nerve disability, will be able to interact with the physical world by controlling a robot, he says.
Some other examples of robots discussed where robots that prepared food; swarms of fly-size robots that could patrol a home or office like guards; robots that cleaned the house, did laundry and took out the rubbish; and robots that could drive cars. One day they may even do a better job than humans but presently, robots cannot solve every problem for us.
- Rubbery robot that can crawl and camouflage itself (theinformativereport.com)