Sunday, March 18, 2007

Robots ready to take over the home?

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)


Medical said...

Mai Kaojie

Collective behaviour could be dangerous if such behaviour become unpredictable. If a swarm of robots are given to possess certain emergent behaviour, these behaviour may evolve to a stage that it may compromise the safety of the human beings. Check out the book on "prey" by Michael Crichton. When that happens, that will seriously really be robot taking over your home.

Home said...

Ng Buck Sin U046233B

However, as mentioned in the lecture, all robots should be equipped with the 3 Laws of Robotic. Hence, there should not be a compromise in safety even as these collective behaviors evolve.

First Law

A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

Second Law
A robot must obey the orders given by human beings, except when such orders would conflict with the First Law.

Third Law
A robot must protect its own existence, as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

Home said...

Lee Kaizhao U036122x

Yiping interestingly pointed out the need for RFID to be tagged on every single object and the need to design a sensor network similar to an ant colony in robots. These are some of the many challenges before we can fulfil our dreams for robots to fully take over the home-keeping tasks. Till then, such laborious house chores tasks will still lie on our shoulders. Or our neighbouring countries.

Growing up reading Isaac Asimov’s books, I feel that it is imperative for me to point out that the term ‘robotics’, the famous 3 laws of robotics and many other issues involving robotics can be attributed to Asimov himself. I am certain that the many Science Fiction books written by him have contributed in some way to Man’s continued faith and dreams in robotics.

dars.edutainment said...

Laws are very subjective and the interpretation of it brings about many issues and "grey areas". Let's take an example, if a human orders a robot to destroy other robots (destruction of other people's property), and the robot does so, it's not violating any rule since it's following instructions. But vandalism itself is a crime. Could the blame be then shifted to the owner of the robot or should the robot take the blame? What if the instructions were given by someone else on grounds of mischief? Just something for us to ponder... I guess as the robots develop together with their AI, more rules and stricter guidelines will have to be implemented.

Alvin Ong