Written by Doug Linman, PhD – Founder of Molecular Quartermasters Corporation
Except for handling most home needs, performing dangerous and repetitive tasks…what else can the emerging science and technology world of Robosapien People (humanoid robots) do?
The history of robots has its roots as far back as ancient myths and legends. Aristotle took up an early reference in Homer’s Iliad and speculated in his book, Politics (ca.322 BC) that automatons could someday bring about human equality by making the abolition of slavery achievable. The Iliad illustrates the concept of robotics by stating that the god Hephaestus made talking mechanical handmaidens out of gold. Greek mathematician Archytas of Tarentum is reputed to have built a mechanical pigeon around 400 BC, possibly powered by steam and capable of flying. Heron of Alexandria (10–70 AD) created some mechanical devices in the late 1st century AD, including one that allegedly could speak. All very cool first invention ideas that spawned, over centuries to our current 21st, wonderful SCI-FI movies…and developed Robosapien-level robots.
One of the first exceptional humanoid-type robots was “Boilerplate” a robot built by Professor Archibald Campion in the 1880s that was unveiled at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago (both viewed in the picture). This robot’s notable adventures include an expedition to the Antarctic, during which it saves the lives of the team members by singlehandedly moving ice floes, and clearing a path for their ship to sail out. Designed for the self-proclaimed purpose of “preventing the deaths of men in the conflicts of nations,” Boilerplate charges into combat during the Spanish-American War and the Boxer Rebellion. Campion and his robot also circle the planet with the U.S. Navy, make silent movies, and even hobnobbed with the likes of Mark Twain and Nikola Tesla.
Boilerplate was also active in the First World War, but then disappears—possibly having been captured by the Germans for study. Supporters of this theory point out that German military technology advanced tremendously in the twenty years between the two world wars, encompassing guided rockets, experimental jets, and sophisticated tanks. Post World War II, Boilerplate is sighted on a number of occasions, often in Chicago.
Do Robosapiens Have Ethics or Laws to Follow?
Well, yes they do! In 2011, Great Britain’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPRSC); and Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) jointly published a set of four ethical “principles for designers, builders and users of robots” in the real world, along with these seven “framework messages” intended to be conveyed as guidelines:
1) Robots should not be designed solely or primarily to kill or harm humans.
2) Humans, not robots, are responsible agents.
3) Robots are tools designed to achieve human goals.
4) Robots should be designed in ways that assure their safety and security.
5) Robots are artifacts; they should not be designed to exploit vulnerable users by evoking an emotional response or dependency.
6) It should always be possible to tell a robot from a human.
7) It should always be possible to find out who is legally responsible for a robot.
The research points intended to convey a regulatory framework for further maturing legal guidelines in Robotics Law were:
a) We believe robots have the potential to provide immense positive impact to society.
b) We want to encourage responsible robot research and societal use. Bad practice hurts us all.
c) Addressing obvious public concerns will help us all make progress. It is important to demonstrate that “roboticists” are committed and accountable scientists and engineers to the best possible standards of practice.
d) To understand the context and consequences of Robosapiens, the research will continue to work with experts from other disciplines, including: social sciences, law, medical, manufacturing, philosophy and the arts.
Robot Judicial Law Development
Another comprehensive terminological codification for the legal assessment of the technological developments in the robotics industry has already begun, mainly in Asian countries. Honda, as one example that I know, has changed its business line to now say they are “a complete mobility company”, which embraces their significant role and advances in humanoid-type Robots as displayed in these various pictures. Further progress requires a contemporary reinterpretation of the law (and ethics) or new law in the field of robotics, as interpretation, which assumes a slight rethinking of traditional law areas. These include primarily legal liability and accountability issues in civil and criminal law.
Liability for Robosapien Actions
Within the common law tradition general liability standards are limited to damages arising in the use or application of robots; the person using or applying the Robot has general liability. This is due to a number of ambiguities surrounding the application of liability to something that is not a person under the law (e.g. developers, producers, distributors, and users). These ambiguities arise in relation to the concept of “third parties,” the law’s present causality and accountability structures, the concept of “due care” relating to negligence, and existing legal justifications. Progress in the law of robots seeks to quickly clarify these ambiguities. As you can see, it is an evolving area for all students! Robotic law, ethics and lawsuits will be coming into play within twenty years. So, become international masters in this area and you have a job for life.
Why Do We Need Them?
Robots, as other high-performance inventions, have always been of vast interest for humanity. A great number of scientists have spent a whole life in laboratories with one aim – to work out innovative schemes, develop them and create some of the highest qualitative ranking robots. The most striking fantasies in this sphere are brought successfully into reality with a great number of robots in the service of people. They make the process of manufacturing work automatic; and with prosthetic development enhance children and adult life. They handle repeatable tasks all by themselves, which provides more time for us. People and robots will eventually go together in this life, side by side, and in some spheres of life they are even interchangeable. Predicting what this opposition paradigm, “Robots vs. People” will translate into remains unknown but certainly fascinating and progressing, as you will now see…
Robosapien-Types Available for You Now!
Toyota unveiled a new robot -Mobility Robot, the newest additions to its Toyota Partner Robots being developed to support peoples’ everyday life. The Mobility Robot, which is capable of autonomous movement over uneven ground and around obstacles, provides transport in places where people usually walk. Toyota Mobility Robot can negotiate steps with independent vertical movement of left and right wheels, allowing it to assist in short-distance personal mobility. The Toyota Mobility Robot is capable of following a person, allowing it to function as a porter and also is capable of avoiding obstacles to reach its owner and of autonomously transporting its owner. The Mobility Robot has a traveling range of 20km on one hour of battery charge and can travels at up to 6km/h —capable of traversing a 10-degree gradient.
- 1989 Manny was a full-scale anthropomorphic robot with 42 degrees of freedom developed at Battelle’s Pacific Northwest Laboratories in Richland, Washington, for the US Army’s Dugway Proving Ground in Utah. It could not walk on its own but it could crawl with an artificial respiratory system to simulate breathing and sweating.
- 1990 Tad McGeer showed that a biped mechanical structure with knees could walk passively down a sloping surface.
- 1993 Honda developed P1 (Prototype Model 1) through P3, an evolution from E series, with upper limbs. Developed until 1997.
- 1995 Hadaly was developed in Waseda University to study human-robot communication and has three subsystems: a head-eye subsystem; a voice control system for listening and speaking in Japanese; and a motion-control subsystem to use the arms to point toward campus destinations.
- 1995 Wabian is a human-size biped-walking robot from Waseda University.
- 1996 Saika, a light-weight, human-size and low-cost humanoid robot, was developed at Tokyo University. Saika has a two-DOF neck, dual five-DOF upper arms, a torso and a head. Several types of hands and forearms are under development also. Developed until 1998.
- 1997 Hadaly-2, developed at Waseda University, is a humanoid robot which realizes interactive communication with humans. It communicates not only informationally, but also physically.
- 2000 Asimo, Honda creates its 11th bipedal humanoid robot.
- 2001 Qrio, Sony unveils small humanoid entertainment robots, dubbed Sony Dream Robot (SDR). Renamed Qrio in 2003.
- 2001 Hoap, Fujitsu realized its first commercial humanoid robot named HOAP-1. Its successors HOAP-2 and HOAP-3 were announced in 2003 and 2005, respectively. HOAP is designed for a broad range of applications for R&D of robot technologies.
- 2003 JOHNNIE, an autonomous biped walking robot built at the Technical University of Munich. The main objective was to realize an anthropomorphic walking machine with a human-like, dynamically stable gait
- 2003 Actroid, a robot with realistic silicone “skin” developed by Osaka University in conjunction with Kokoro Company Ltd.
- 2004 Persia, Iran’s first humanoid robot was developed using realistic simulation by researchers of Isfahan University of Technology in conjunction with ISTT.
- 2004 KHR-1, a programmable bipedal humanoid robot introduced in June 2004 by a Japanese company Kondo Kagaku.
- 2005 The PKD Android, a conversational humanoid robot made in the likeness of science fiction novelist Philip K Dick, was developed in collaboration between Hanson Robotics, the FedEx Institute of Technology, and the University of Memphis.
- 2005 Wakamaru, a Japanese domestic robot made by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, primarily intended to provide companionship to elderly and disabled people.
- 2006 REEM-A, a biped humanoid robot designed to play chess with the Hydra Chess engine. The first robot developed by PAL Robotics, it was also used as a walking, manipulation speech and vision development platform.
- 2007 TOPIO, a ping pong-playing robot developed by TOSY Robotics JSC.
- 2008 Justin, a humanoid robot developed by the German Aerospace Center (DLR).
- 2008 KT-X, the first international humanoid robot developed as a collaboration between the five-time consecutive RoboCup champions, Team Osaka, and KumoTek Robotics.
- 2008 Nexi, the first mobile, dexterous and social robot, makes its public debut as one of TIME magazine’s top inventions of the year. The robot was built through collaboration between the MIT Media Lab Personal Robots Group, Xitome Design, UMass Amherst and Meka robotics.
- 2008 REEM-B, the second biped humanoid robot developed by PAL Robotics. It has the ability to autonomously learn its environment using various sensors and carry 20% of its own weight.
- 2009 HRP-4C, a Japanese domestic robot made by National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, shows human facial and movement characteristics in addition to bipedal walking.
- 2009 SURLAP, is Turkey’s first dynamically walking humanoid robot, developed by Sabanci University in conjunction with Tubitak.
- 2010 Robonaut 2, revealed by NASA and General Motors is a very advanced humanoid robot. It was part of the payload of Shuttle Discovery on the successful launch February 24, 2010. It is intended to do spacewalks for NASA.
- 2010 Surena II, comes from the Students at the University of Tehran, Iran. It was unveiled by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
- 2010 HRP-4C, and HRP-4 by researchers at Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology demonstrate their humanoid robot singing and dancing along with human dancers (and a more athletic -4 version).
- 2010 REEM, a humanoid service robot with a wheeled mobile base. Developed by PAL Robotics, it can perform autonomous navigation in various surroundings and has voice and face recognition capabilities.
- 2011 Asimo, In November Honda unveiled its second generation Honda Asimo Robot. This all-new entrant is the first version of the robot with semi-autonomous capabilities.
As you can see, humanoid-level robots are progressing globally so there is no slow down in sight for their interest and innovation.
What Can These Robosapiens Do?
Scientists are developing a new robot, which they say can help remind elderly people to take their medication and monitor their vital signs. Researchers in New Zealand, who are now customizing their robot with gaming facilities, claimed that they would soon be able to entertain the elderly people while encouraging exercise and mobility. A robot, which will be used for that purpose, is called Eldercare and it has been created with South Korea’s Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute. The aim of the robot they have developed, according to the researchers, is to reduce the strain on healthcare resources as the aging population grows to improve the lives of people who are dependent on care. David Cotter of UniServices (a division of Auckland University that commercializes its research), said this robot could monitor a person’s blood pressure, or insulin levels and then transmit the data to a center using wireless connections where a nurse or doctor can access it. It can also fetch and carry and monitor when a person has fallen by using a bracelet that communicates with it. It then decides whether emergency services are needed.
So many more efforts are availed: pinpoint laser surgery, data collection in harsh environments, fire and policing duties, surveillance, home and building security, filing, most repeatable tasks, military and swat team uses, vehicle pilots (example: cargo ships, space exploration, etc.), eldercare, mail delivery and building complex security, to name a few.
What is Left to Make Them Available to Each of Us?!
People have been dreaming of household robots for years. Since the 20th century we’ve been promised that they will be here. During the 1950s the House of Tomorrow concept was popular: luxurious houses that freed people from the drudgery of every day life with a multitude of laborsaving devices. One of the most popular was the household robot capable of cleaning, dusting, cooking, gardening, pet feeding, baby-sitting, and other chores normally done by humans. Today we see the beginnings of the domestic robot industry with the arrival of robots such as Roomba, the household vacuum cleaning machine. Now people are expecting more, but just where are domestic service robots going? What will they become in the future? Will there really be robots doing all of the daily work in the future?
While some companies are working on truly humanoid-like robots (Robosapiens) that will take several more years to realize, the near future does hold hope for smaller, less capable robots that can do easier tasks like vacuuming, lawn mowing, floor/window washing, security patrolling, carrying clothes to the laundry, taking out the trash, serving food, getting the mail, feeding pets, or watering plants. Many of these robots are already in design; some are even on the market. In just a few years they should be improved enough to work well and subsequently the market will increase. More robots will mean they will become cheaper which will get more people to buy and use them in their homes. In fact, Asian countries expect that by 2018 many homes will have personal robots handling mundane or repeatable chores. Today, as an example, you can purchase the Roomba vacuum cleaner at Sears. It costs just a little more than a full size regular vacuum. Of course, it doesn’t do as much, but it does vacuum the floor, and several of them will clean the floors of your whole house while other similar types will cut your lawn—all without you lifting a finger!
The near future robot will require anthropomorphism, or two legs. Human houses are made for people who walk on two legs. Instead of changing the houses to fit robots, the future will bring automatons that have been changed to fit human houses. These robots will be able to do things like climb stairs. The future robot will be designed to operate in any environment that a human being operates in. To further the development of robots like this research into the anatomy and physiology of humans is necessary. This could even impact other research like the development of prosthetics. So, check into these areas as well, because they are required as long-term jobs and careers!
What Makes Them Smart?
One of the biggest problems for robots of the future is the software design. A robot that can walk and perform tasks in the average house has to be very clever. The AI, artificial intelligence, needs to be developed to make robots smarter. In early 1980 I took courses in Human Computer Interaction or HCI. These courses expressed how intelligence is developed in computers and how it is further developed for use in robots.
Although this appears to be a commandment leveled at the robots, it is actually a direct instruction to programmers and designers. The capacity for deceit is present within the constraints of the technology. The setting of priorities for strategies and responses when the robot is faced with interrogation allows for the owner to be protected at the expense of the truth. Skills needed to build robo-intelligence and morality have not gone away, but growing in demand; and once again dear reader: this is a current and long future career/job path!
What is the Future of Robosapiens?
The future of automatons, humanoid-level robotics, is also tied to future inventions. Many technologies have been invented long before the applications were found to use them. One example would be the laser. It wasn’t invented to play CDs. The future design of robots may produce many knew products that people haven’t even begun to think about. Solutions to other problems may come from the research that is going on now. So, more qualified scientists, engineers and technicians are needed in these subject areas and will be for at least the next 50 years and more than likely, beyond…
Moral and Ethical Considerations in Earth’s Culture
While the reality is that robots and electronic devices are becoming more autonomous daily, the need to regulate their use, behavior and underlying principles—that determine our attitudes towards them—is becoming more pressing with each step they’re able to take away from human hands-on control.
As a starting point for dealing with these issues some governments have already begun work on a charter of robot ethics and so, with the suggestions of these bodies in mind, there are future electronic/robot moral and ethics issues. Technology continues to develop and fine-tune the design of these machines, but does society want a class of robots that operate with a different set of moral standards to most of society? Well.. er…hmm…no!
The presence of robots in our Earth’s society in 2016 and beyond… creates a multitude of ethical questions. Most of these will have logical and sensible answers. But as automatons become more human-like in appearance, in the roles that they play and in their legal-standing, many of the worst aspects of humanity, including prejudice, discrimination and envy will need to be revisited and defeated again. One of the ways to make many of the issues easier to handle in this existing and growing dilemma is to build the Robosapiens to be less humanoid looking. This allows the visual psychology of having “an electronic/mechanical tool” versus having an emotional connection to a robotically built “close friend or relative” to hold a clear difference.
Note: references for pictures and research data areas were provided from the mentioned organizations within the article.