Asimo is 11 today

October 31, 2011

Asimo is 11 years old today. Hurrah!

There is a cool new video on the Honda website about the project.

They seem happy with the movement and are now working on the AI. So perhaps soon, that commercially availble Asimo will be winging its way to my house.

Something I have been observing for a while, and continue to find interesting, is the really long-term marketing program for the Asimo. It is pretty clear in this video Honda realises the bad press robots have had since forever from sci fi has given them a real marketing problem for the Asimo.

They have been dragging the prototypes all over the planet to show off the friendly robot – and as I have mentioned before, they appear as if already they are everyday objects already in Honda’s main advertising.

While the cause of making sure everyone is happy with robots in their house (think of Will Smith in I, Robot, very loosely based on Asimov‘s work) is a noble one, which I support – to ensure it is not associated with nightmare machines such as the Terminator – they could have chosen a better birth date for the Asimo than Hallo’ween

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Robotic actress causes a sensation in Japan.

The robot is named Geminoid F and is extremely lifelike.

I seem to remember one of the really early Asimov robot stories being about how human looking robots freaked people out so they were always built in a human shape but with an appearance that made it very clear they were not humans (I always imagined the Asimov robots looked like the IL series Cylon in the original battle Star Galactica.)

This is of course a really serious issue for our collective futures. Should we make robots look like us (for some reason a bible quote comes to mind about “man being made in god’s image”) or not?

In Alien Resurrection the character Call (Winona Ryder) turns out to be an human-looking android who like many others of her kind burnt their interfaces and hid among humans.

This is a moral dilemma which we should consider. What do you think?

 

The Rest of the Robots

October 6, 2010

OMG! Please check out this blog and listen to the podcast. I blogged about robots and supermarkets previously and this follows on from that.

What happens when you have an Asimo in your house that can remember EVERYTHING it sees, hears, smells in its internal hard drive and, if you have a cloud version, on a remote server (and several mirror servers)?

What happens if a Government organisation wants access to what this robot has recorded? Will this data be admissible in a court of law – can the robot’s memory be used against you? What you store on your home PC can be, so why would robots be any different?

And how can we be sure our robots aren’t being hacked by criminals to use against us – are we all sure our home PC has never been hacked?

Ryan Calo works at a top US law school and is a robots expert.

One of the key things he says in this podcast is that robots will be the transformative technology of this century.

He refers to how PCs changed lives in the 80s, the internet in the 90s. I would look back to the 19th century and remember the changes cars heralded and also the telephone and light bulb. The rise of the robots is THAT important.

Seriously, the sci fi fear industry shows us what happens when robots go wrong (James Cameron and The Terminator are the most famous and chilling example). As often happens military applications are where technology is developed and robots are the same. Alan Turing is a perfect example here, involved as he was with the development of modern computing and later defined the Turing Test.

I have been speaking about the use of robots for a long time with someone I know well who remains sceptical (I keep telling this person robots would be perfect to do a certain role in their organisation) and this person mentioned it to their boss who agreed with them and said it will never happen.

The blog goes on to discuss the insurance industry which will naturally rise up around robots in every day use. I mentioned this to an actuary I know over a year ago who was going off to see what his company were doing about this. He has not come back to me, which either means his company think I am nuts, or they are well aware and just don’t want to acknowledge it.

There will also be international industry safety standards for robots as there is for all sorts of items you can buy.

Maybe I am wrong about these robots, but I remember when I got my first mobile phone back in 1997 people couldn’t understand what I was doing carrying around this brick everywhere I went.

Just about no one else I knew had one.

One lady (the mother of one of my friends) pointed out I had a post uni McJob rather than a high-flying career, so what was I thinking?

No one got it – yet today every one of those people has a mobile phone they take everywhere they go.

Bad Robot

September 27, 2010

I was speaking to a lady the other day (an acquaintance, I guess, if people still have such things in our world of six degrees of separation) who is losing her job because the organisation she worked for is closing down.

Since it became clear she would be out of work by the end of the year she started applying for jobs in similar organisations. Times are hard in that industry (and many others) and no one is hiring.

So she turned to one of the big supermarkets, the logic being working for one of them until the current recession is over is better than the dole. I couldn’t agree more.

This has not come to pass – from the discussion I had with her, I came away with the distinct impression the supermarket was not hiring till staff because they were expecting to increase the number of self-service tills.

As a child and teenager I was an avid reader of science fiction books (and of sci-fi comics and I’d watch movies and TV shows too) and one of those ever-present themes was about machines taking away jobs from people. This would lead to anti robot uprisings amongst civilian populations and would generally create a big mess.

Robots have been present on production lines for many years (I’m fairly certain I read in an Asimov story once about robots building robots that were better than humans could ever build), but this is the first time I have actually heard someone I know say they haven’t got employment because of the robots.

This is a worrying turn of events. Computers and robots are supposed to be machines – tools – to assist us. Not workplace rivals.

When you see the cute Asimo on the the Honda ads (great ads btw, made by Wieden + Kennedy) remember one day he may be stealing your job out from under you.

I foresee the Daily Mail stopping the immigration stories and running with the robot stories instead…

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