Personal or domestic service robots are rapidly infiltrating the homes (statistically forecasted to increase from 1.3M in 2003 to 6.7 by the end of this year, according to the survey by the UN's Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE)) to help handle daily chores like vacuuming the carpets, mowing the lawns, and especially the increasing research for robots to act more human-like (The Age. October 29, 2004). Definitely an exciting, industry to look into; very much the same way that the computer business did 30 years ago.
Whilst helping my mom out in the kitchen, I thought to myself the numerous things which can be automatized: the smart refrigerator; storage cabinets; doing of laundry; cleaning of the floor; cooking, even. Every aspect could be computerized and be handled by robots; but at a price of tagging every single object with an RFID such that robots can identify the article (as mentioned in earlier post "Replacing the Maid", April 10 2006) While WalMart is able to command this from its suppliers, many other smaller retailers would not be able to -- and this would incur and additional cost on us, the end consumers. With that said, it is to note that many of the current inventions are task-specific, which is not any good for that matter.
On a macro scale, what is needed are large real-time sensor networks which challenges the traditional models of computation. A sensor network comprises many individually insignificant and unreliable entities yet exhibit a collective, predicable behavior a la an ant colony. (Judy Tolliver (2006). On inventing laws of nature, faking intelligence, and understanding time. UIUC.) Just as what we have learnt in the lecture whereby individual robots behave in a cooperative manner towards a common goal or interest. "In a sense, we get to play god", researcher Abdelzaher says, "because you cannot change the instinct of an ant, but you can reprogram a particle [to the behavior of choice out of the collective]". We get to dictate the rules that lead to the phenomena in we specify -- a general, mulitpurpose, robotic maid. Just like Rosie the Robot Maid in The Jetsons (in picture above).
Chew Yiping (U036736A) firstname.lastname@example.org