Robot Futures

Is a robot in your future? Robots are already omni-present in industry, and are now appearing in law enforcement, medical facilities, the military . . . at the nexus coordinate of artificial intelligence, complex micro-mechanical systems, and eventually, nanotechnology, the next generation of autonomous robots is emerging.

robot2x.gifRobots may become more biological than mechanical . . ultimately, robots will be everywhere, ranging from nanobots and “smart microbes”, to hybrid cyborg and artificial beings of all descriptions and types, integrated into a symbiotic ecology with their human and “natural” counterparts.

It’s a bird . . . it’s a plane . . . no, it’s a flying autonomous surveilence robot, perhaps soon to be hovering about over a street or around a building near you.

Have robot . . . will travel. This is a current example of human-like robotic machinery being controlled and “trained” by its human counterpart.

A robot in every garage, the office, the local store . . . according to some developers, this scenario is not that far off at all. Here, this mobile autonomous robot platform “follows” the human around the room, and remembers what it has learned about its surroundings.

Workers from the local carpenter’s union don’t have to worry . . . yet. Rapid advancements in complex limb systems, visual cognition, and artificial intelligence are closing the gap between the R2-D2 robot of Star Wars fiction, and the reality of what is being developed.

Don’t run for the industrial strength fly swatter just yet . . . but a myriad of “robo-bugs” in various forms are currently in development in labs all over the world. Such insect-like mechanical critters can be extremely effective in industrial or hazardous situations, performing mission critical tasks where humans could not possibly function, and eventually, perhaps exploring the surfaces of other planets.

This mirco-robot uses a shape changing alloy as a type of “artificial muscle” fiber to operate its tiny limbs. One plan in development is to create hordes of these insect sized robots which could be released by a mother craft on a planetary surface, such as Mars, for detailed exploration and sample collection.

Robo-pet . . . in a world where crowded conditions in the city, and the hectic pace of life have made the caring for “organic” pets evermore difficult, companionship is now available with our “artificial friends”. This particular commercial example is the robot dog from SONY corp.

Where things are headed . . . smaller, smarter, more integrated. Micro-mechanical systems, smart “shape changing” materials, complex integrated structures, sensors . . . and eventually, nanotechnology, incorporating all of these elements into autonomous entities approaching actual biological systems in function and complexity.

robot7.gifNano-bugs, nano-bots, “invisible robots” . . . nanotechnology will soon bring robotic devices down into the realm of the invisible, microbe sized smart devices that will roam about within the human body, and out in nature.

Robots have already been roving about on the surface of Mars, and are continuing to be developed to probe the outer frontiers of the Solar system, and the deepest chasms of the ocean floor here on Earth.

The far future . . .
Define “robot” . . . the day may come when robots are no longer mechanical contraptions, but rather sentient biological / cyborg beings, designed and created as integral counterparts to our life and society.