The Real Future of Robots

When you think of a robot, do you think of the Roomba or do you think of a humanoid butler bot?  Do you have visions of a robot that is so human that it will fool the average person?  We all have different ideas of what a robot should and shouldn't look like and what it should and shouldn't do.


The real future of robots will be a steady progression of functionality.  We have already seen the Roomba and several bots that do easy cleaning chores.  I expect that in the next 10 - 20 years we will see bots that can do the vast majority of our cleaning, straightening up, and other tedious tasks that we don't enjoy.  We will also see steady improvements in each one of these little bots until the vacuum bot is as good as it can get; the dish is as good as it can get, and so on.  In this phase when things are getting better at what they do, the average household may well only have one or two of these bots, which ever bots are cheapest.  Wealthier people will start acquiring as many as possible and at some point a control center will crop up.  The control center will wirelessly give instructions to each bot to make sure cleaning times are kept and things get charged.


Once the gadgets are at their "perfect point", engineers will start to combine them.  Vacuums will turn into multi-purpose floor cleaners for every surface.  Your dish bot will do the laundry as well.  Eventually, all of the cleaning bots will combine into one.  This will create a very unique problem, one that scientists have tried to conquer for years.  How does a robot access everything that a human can.  The answer will be a humanoid bot.  This introduces many problems of it's (the word its, does not need an apostrophe) own, but the main problem is complexity.  You need a massive amount of computing power, to handle everything the human brain can do  in the background.

Wireless Bot

Most sci-fi novels imply that humans will have the computing power necessary to allow robots to compute everything they need and to fit into their head.  One day this will definitely be true.  In the early years of advanced robotics I expect to have robots wirelessly linked to a command center.  The command center will most likely be a large computer that is connected to a grid a of extremely fast processors and extremely fast wireless relays.  The robot will process the vast majority of its problems on the command center computer,  sending everything back and forth wirelessly.  For example a robot will have voice recognition, visual recognition, and checking storage logs all at the same time.  When it hears a voice say something, the robot will say "hey command center what is the proper response" and then the command center will handle that. It will handle other functions, in a similar fashion. The actual humanoid will really be nothing more than a puppet for the brain behind the curtain.  All those commands could be sent wirelessly in less than a second right now.  In the future, they could probably be sent in under a millisecond.

The Oh Crap Moment

You better believe that robots are going to have their own "Oh crap" moments.  When robots begin interacting in a human environment they will run into obstacles that are either threatening to their own existence or that of humans.  I imagine early robots will trip or break things.  When every moment counts you don't want to trust your existence to a wireless connection.  Future robots will definitely have an emergency mode that switches them to full computing power on board to solve one problem, because you can't always rely on the brain.  Instinct is important, even for robots.

As a human race we will undoubtedly reach the pinnacle of technology that science fiction has predicted.  However, we will have long transition times and many interesting solutions to the problems that we face.  Integrating robots into our lives will be very important and life changing, just don't expect it to happen overnight.

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