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Thank you very much, Mr. Roboto.
March 19, 2002 6:33 AM   Subscribe

Thank you very much, Mr. Roboto. Both Honda and Sony have unveiled the newest versions of their humanoid robots. Honda favours a more practical design, while Sony's is geared for entertainment. Having just watched AI the other night, I'm wondering when and if people would want to have one around the house.
posted by Stuart_R (21 comments total)

 
Maybe I'm in the minority, but I don't see a bright future for humanoid robots. They are needlessly complicated and if, in the distant future, a very human-like version is invented I don't think I would feel comfortable enslaving it. Besides, we already have highly optimized (cars) or optimizable (computers) tools for most everything but the most basic things we do. And, let's be honest here, how much are you willing to pay for a hulking metal contraption that can fetch you a beer from the fridge? How much would you pay for maintenance? For upgrades? I think there will never be more than novelty market for these things.
posted by plaino at 6:52 AM on March 19, 2002


A microelectronics company here in Kyoto, Omron, started selling a $1,200 robot cat called Necoro (Japanese only, linked because of images) last Christmas. It's made to be fuzzy and cute, rather than the metallic Aibo. My wife and I played with in the department store, but to me it got tiresome pretty quickly.
posted by planetkyoto at 7:24 AM on March 19, 2002


Maybe I'm in the minority, but I don't see a bright future for humanoid robots.

Isaac Asimov's justification for humanoid robots was versatility: it would be able to go and do anything a human being could do, climb stairs, drive a car, etc.

What Asimov didn't forsee was the drastic miniaturization of computers. So it's more likely that we'd just make a smart car rather than a humanoid robot that drives cars.
posted by straight at 8:04 AM on March 19, 2002


Regardless of the future of humanoid robots for domestic use, I'm just amazed that they can build a two legged robot that can balance, walk around, and right itself when pushed. The thought of a robot wandering around on two legs like a human is unnerving enough for me, even without all the emotions and beer-fetching.... Have a look at some of these videos from the Honda Asimo site.
posted by chrismear at 8:10 AM on March 19, 2002


I'm just amazed that they can build a two legged robot that can balance, walk around, and right itself when pushed. The thought of a robot wandering around on two legs like a human is unnerving

Slight tangent: Legs are an interesting example of natural selection converging on a 'local-minimum' in the continuum of locomotion designs. Wheels would have been much more energy efficient as well as speedy (for us carnivorous predators) yet there are no examples I can think of in nature. Anyway, now that engineers have hit upon the wheel idea I think there will never be very many robots wandering around on legs. Even if legs are required for stair climbing, wheeled robots will just carry a retractable set around for only that purpose.
posted by plaino at 8:24 AM on March 19, 2002


I like that the ultimate goal is an affordable robot that can fetch a beer. I'm all for that!
posted by spilon at 8:27 AM on March 19, 2002


The balancing act is pretty impressive - if they can really handle uneven surfaces, it's even more impressive. I wonder if they're ready to take a walk through the woods or up a sand dune.

As far as any useful purpose for these, I don't see it. If you actually need a general purpose walker-manipulator, I'd probably vote for some type of spider-like design. Otherwise, like straight said, just put a computer chip in whatever machinery you need to run itself.

The quote from Doi that "It has emotions. It has instincts." is marketing crap, which is to say, a lie. With the current start of the art in AI, we're way closer to having a robot that looks and moves just like a human than we are to having one with the instincts, emotions or intelligence of even a mouse. When we do get to the point of genuine AI, it'll probably be on someone's PC, not in a humanoid robot. (Presuming we haven't switched paradigms & started doing our programming on home-grown biological systems.)

I loved Asimov's books, but they're not about robots. They're about golems or genies, dressed up in modernistic terminology. Let's face it - science fiction writers create cool stories, but they suck at predicting the future. (One great source for giggles is reading sci-fi written in the 50's, where the heroes zoom around in faster-than-light spaceships controlled by computers that run on vacuum tubes! Seems silly now, but is it any more silly than current writers predicting AI life forms built on silicon chips?)
posted by tdismukes at 8:47 AM on March 19, 2002


I like that the ultimate goal is an affordable robot that can fetch a beer. I'm all for that!

Me too! Throw in a cigarette lighter attachment and I'm sold.
posted by jonmc at 8:56 AM on March 19, 2002


Hollywood, take note! That ASIMO robot is just different enough from the way a human would walk to be really creepy and unsettling. Much creepier than most evil robots in the movies.

Thanks for the link, chrismear.
posted by straight at 8:58 AM on March 19, 2002


Hmm...I guess the easy choice -- running up the stairs to escape the assassin bot -- is out of the question now.
posted by Kikkoman at 9:40 AM on March 19, 2002


I saw the ASIMO on TV a few weeks ago and it freaked me out (they'd had it ring the bell at the NYSE, I think). The Honda rep was talking about it's possible future usefullness as a caretaker for the elderly. I looked at my fiance, whose grandfather is very ill, and said, "Do you think he'd want that thing following him around the house?" The idea was too funny. I don't know, the ASIMO was cute for about ten seconds and then I found it deeply unsettling. The Honda rep made a point to say that they "designed it small so it wouldn't be as threatening." So instead of threatening, we get creepy. Anyway, I don't think I want my appliances human shaped, much the same way I don't think I'd want my pets to possess the power of speech.
posted by akmonday at 9:57 AM on March 19, 2002


Wheels would have been much more energy efficient as well as speedy (for us carnivorous predators) yet there are no examples I can think of in nature.

There is at least one type of desert spider that rolls itself up during strong winds and lets itself blow along much like a wheel. I know this is different from having wheels vs legs proper, but it is wheel-like, I think (sorry no links to offer; this is a very quick post).
posted by holycola at 10:18 AM on March 19, 2002


The movie AI had a robot teddy bear companion. To me, this seems like something we are going to see much sooner than the beer-fetching bot. It seems the logical progression when you consider the tamagotchis, furbies, necoros etc...

I think people will react very differently to a robot if it looks like a teddy bear instead of a mini metal man.
posted by Stuart_R at 10:44 AM on March 19, 2002


I want one ... but not one of these. My robot would have three basic reqirements.
1. Clean the cat box.
2. take out the trash.
3. fold the laundry.
All of these are tasks that nobody in my household really likes to do. Doing the dishes and picking up piles of magazines would be nice too.
If I could get a jetson's style robot that would do the general housework I'd glady take out a home equity loan to pay for it.
I'm sure there are quite a few lazy people like me out there.
posted by Dillenger69 at 10:45 AM on March 19, 2002


My wife and I played with [a robot cat] in the department store, but to me it got tiresome pretty quickly.

Sounds like a pretty convincing simulation of a real cat, then.
posted by webmutant at 11:00 AM on March 19, 2002


1. Clean the cat box.
2. take out the trash.
3. fold the laundry.


2(a) Wash its hands?
posted by Grangousier at 11:55 AM on March 19, 2002


I saw AI (again) just the other day too, anyone else think having that toy bear would be cool? My roomates were freaked out by it and said they were going to have nightmares and never sleep nor view a teddy bear again in the same way. They also thought Spielberg was tripping on something while making the movie. In my opinion, the only robot that would appear from the movie would be that pimp bot, other than that, no David's would exist no matter how hard most engineers would try.
posted by brent at 12:03 PM on March 19, 2002


I think Robert Heinlein got the functional requirements of what a robot should to right, in The Door Into Summer.

From this thread its seems clear that people would like a robot that could do the basic servant type of choirs.
posted by Iax at 3:36 PM on March 19, 2002


I want a gazillion nanomites that live off cat puke. Beats scrubbing and vacuuming every day.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 4:23 PM on March 19, 2002


"I saw AI (again) just the other day too, anyone else think having that toy bear would be cool?"

Absolutely! That was one of the strongest thoughts I had coming out of that movie -- I want one of those bears!
posted by CrayDrygu at 7:24 PM on March 19, 2002


Well, enjoy your humanity while you can. In a hundred years, we'll be obsolete. Maybe only fifty years...
posted by dopamine at 9:23 PM on March 19, 2002


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