July 12, 2007

Who Will Win?: Robot Race

I have often observed the development of robotics from the late 20th century up to now.

I wonder which country will produce the first fully functional robot.

In as far as humanoid robots are concerned it is almost a given that japan leads the way. right now they have developed robots that can dance, run, carry plates, climb stairs and recognise faces.

As far as mechanics are concerned the Japanese can already see the light at the end of the tunnel.

What is left now is developing the software that will enable the robots to do tasks. As of now they appear to have solved it up the level of them performing preprogrammed tasks.

This is still elementary as obviously the ideal robot should be able to accept new commands after production without needing a software download.

Not far behind are the Americans. When I compare the robotics coming out of Japan and those coming out of America it is a far cry. The Americans are producing some commendable robots but a large proportion are crude looking gizmos with a lot of tangling wires and cables. Their movement lacks grace and is too mechanical. A far cry when you compare it to this one

What is even more alarming is that the main output of robotics from America is from the military industry. Of course this is only natural of the war mongering vindictive upstarts. The ones they developed are not recognizable robots but more like automated fighters and spy planes that search and destroy targets or relay targets to bombers.

They recently developed s small 'skateboard" like robot to help in entering buildings in the Iraqi war. the robots are the one that take a 'peek' instead of risking a real soldier's life. They have also been employed in bomb disarming but I am doubtful of the robot's dexterity. The one that looked most like a robot was based on a mule and was designed to carry gear for the troops in the mountain side. It seems to work fine but I doubt if the robot can achieve such balancing feats because the afghan mountain ranges are quite rocky and steep.

I also saw some efforts from Iran but they still need a lot tuning down before they can be serious contenders for the title

But then there is the field of non-humanoid robots which I feel presents less challenges in developing as the biped problem is avoided and balance issues are greatly reduced.

This robot has immediate applications because of its small size and grace it can navigate tight spots, nooks and crannies in search and rescue, say in collapsed building or underwater emergencies to find and locate survivors. With the right adjustments it can even have spying capabilities.

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