The robotics industry is growing exponentially, with numerous endeavors focused on integrating robots into the home. Future robots will assist with chores, provide entertainment, enhance telepresence, become companions, and assist with health and elder care.
One of the greatest challenges humans face is to gain control over our complex lives. Today, we must overcome a bewildering maze of information overload, strained relationships, economic turmoil, and confusion over the pace of technological change. And tomorrow’s world will be even more demanding.
Future Robots, loaded with strong artificial intelligence and pleasing personalities, will help us get the most from this future world of fast-changing technologies, making our lives more comfortable and secure.
Roboticist Hans Moravec believes that by mid-2020s, we will create humanoid robots that can express reasoning, emotion, and are eager to perform household tasks. These machines will find and fetch things, express feelings of compassion and love, and become a strong security force, protecting us from Internet cyber attacks; and shielding our homes from weather damage, accidental fires, and dangerous intruders.
Artificial intelligence has made spectacular advances in the last few years. In 1997, IBM’s Deep Blue supercomputer defeated world chess champion Garry Kasparov, in a world first. Today, even small computers have this awesome power, and chess masters now learn from them. IBM’s latest human-thinking computer, Watson, recently defeated Jeopardy experts in a trial of the popular TV quiz show.
But current robot technology – as futuristic as it may try to be – has a long way to go before our mid-2020s ‘bots become reality. The following examples illustrate today’s state-of-the-art machines:
Maja Mataric from USC’s Viterbi School of Engineering demonstrates robot abilities in this TED video; a Japanese robot that sings; and a Canadian life-like female robot that expresses her feelings, below:
Although these robots may seem crude to us today, the future looks bright. Experts predict computer power could match the ability of human brains by 2029; and then surpass us during the 2030s.
However, naysayers see danger as these machines advance. Future robots could reach awareness where they wouldn’t need us anymore. If we’re lucky, some argue, tomorrow’s ‘bots will serve and adore us. If we’re unlucky, they could consider humanity an impediment to their progress and eradicate us.
Not to worry, though, says artificial intelligence expert J. Storrs Hall in his book, Beyond AI. As robots mature, technologies will be in place to interface our minds with these clever machines and share their vast wisdom. This will always keep us one step ahead of our creations in the race for dominance.
During the 2020s, experts predict that robots will become the most valued family possession, even more important than tomorrow’s auto-drive cars. Our silicon cousins could wear skin made of soft, comfortable material – tough, but with the gentle touch of a masseuse. These ‘bots will shower us with affection and nurturing; and some will find this attention extremely desirable; almost addictive.
As the 2030s unfold and we begin interfacing our brains with these powerful creatures, they will become more like us, and by accessing their powerful intelligence, we will become more like them. The line between humans and machines will become increasingly blurred.
In fact, experts predict that by mid-to-late 2030s, these super-smart human-like androids could become so much like us that disconnecting their power source without good reason might be considered a civil rights violation. One day, our silicon creations might even demand voting rights and marriage privileges.
Some wonder where this technology will take us. Will our silicon creations evolve into accommodating peaceful machines; or will we become a powerful human-machine species ready to conquer the cosmos.
Clearly, this journey winds around unknown, possibly even dangerous turns, but strong commercial support guarantees that we will one day experience what promises to become a most remarkable future filled with robot servants satisfying our every whim. Comments welcome.
Dick Pelletier was a weekly columnist who wrote about future science and technologies for numerous publications. He passed away on July 22, 2014.
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