History of Robots, Cyborgs, and Androids Part 5

About the history and development of robots, cyborgs, and androids from ancient history to modern times.


Meanwhile, robots are being developed for use in space programs. NASA's JPL Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., has developed a robot model with a four-wheel rover, an electromechanical arm, two television camera eyes, and a laser range finder, which is about the size of a Volkswagen bug and carries 750 lb. of equipment. It can move around, sense the presence of objects and determine their location and size, and grasp and pick up objects if they are small enough. Eventually it will be able to correct its mistakes, learn from experience, and call for help when it is unable to do something. Semiautonomous, it can deal with the unforeseen. From studies like this will come, sometime in the 1980s, a smaller, lighter robot, about as big as an office desk, for actual exploration of planets as well as for earthbound jobs. Because of its greater independence, it will be able to gain 10 times the amount of scientific data on extraterrestrial land that it could under step-by-step human control.

In the future, robots, not people, will go to distant planets with inhospitable climates, and there they will work for a few years and die.

Thring predicts for future household use a robot that will scrub, sweep, clean, make beds, dry-clean clothes, tape television shows to be replayed, activate locks, choose library materials and print them by teletype, and more. It will not look human, though it will be sized for human households. In all likelihood, its computer brain will not be attached to its body, but instead will be conveniently housed in a closet. Its spoked but rimless wheels will enable it to climb stairs. Through a sophisticated computer program, it will be able to recognize and categorize objects--differentiate between a drinking glass and a cup, for instance. Available sometime in the 1980s, according to Thring, it will cost about $20,000 and have a life of about 25 years.

At the Third International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence at Stanford in 1973, scientists predicted robot tutors by 1983, robot judges by 1988, robot psychiatrists by 1990, and robot chauffeurs by 1992.

By 2000, scientists predict, there will be one robot for every 500 blue-collar workers, and robots will be smarter than humans and able to reproduce themselves for their own ends. And then, it is possible, but not likely, that the human dream of owning the perfect slave will turn into a nightmare, as the robots turn their attention to their human masters.

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