Jack Uldrich
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Robots Advance

Posted in Health Care


Last week, I explained how humans might soon be learning things from robots. Today, I’d like to explain why robots might become a more integral part of life faster than most people expect.

Yesterday, Technology Review published an interesting article entitled: ”Robots Learns to Use Tools.” What is really intriguing about the article, which describes a new robot called the UMass Mobile Manipulator or UMan for short, is that the robot is employing sophisticated algorithms to teach itself how to deal with unfamiliar objects.

One of the major barriers to date with robotics is that programmers have had to write complicated software code to help robots deal with almost every contingency that it might encounter. For example, for a household robot to be effective, it needs to recognize every item that might conceivably be in someone house—everything from a pair of scissors to a flower vase. This is no easy chore.

In the near future, however, robots need not necessarily know how to handle every object; they merely need to learn how to deal with that object in an

appropriate fashion. Using the scissors as example, UMan can study the device and then can tinker with the blades until it understands how they are connected and how the object operates. Presumably, the robot will then know that it would be inappropriate to “run with scissors.”

The implications of self-learning robots could be quite profound—especially if they can learn faster than humans. For instance, if they can recognize and learn how things operate, they might be finally able to practical household servants—ala Rosie the Robot in the Jetson’s. They could also become more practical instruments in the agricultural industry if they can determine between which fruit or vegetable is ready to be picked or whether it needs to stay on the vine a little longer. Similarly, robots will become more effective warriors in battlefield situations if they can rapidly adapt to the enemy’s changing behavior; and there is no reason why they can’t soon be used in a variety of other fields, including the construction industry and the health care industry.

Interested in some other future-related posts about robots? Check out these recent posts:

Learn from Robots

Meet Your Future, Shape-Shiting Robotic Butler

Hospitals Robotic Future

Will Robots Have Tails?

Is the Future of an ATV a Robot

The Robot Will See You Now

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