Wednesday, January 18, 2006

What's Up BOT?

Readers of Action Geek are familiar with Angry Bot, Doug's alter ego (clone?) who enables him to speak, gesture and act in ways he might not get away with as Action Geek. While Angry Bot is a fascinating personality, he is, alas, not real. Still, to us non-scientists, he looks like a robot should. Until recently, robots that looked "right" couldn't do very much because human movement is very difficult to replicate. Sony has proven it can be done with Asimo, but even this ambitious effort fails to accomplish much except entertain.

This is why I got very excited while reading Mass High Tech in the can at work. Two guys from Connecticut have invented an anthropomorphic (human-like)CAR WASHING robot designed to replace the human car wash attendee who sprays down a car just before it enters an automated car wash. This car wash robot can even be dressed in a variety of costumes, such as Santa Claus. The article didn't address the task of collecting the payment, a funtion I associate with the "spray-down" guy. Still, here is a robot entering the workforce just where we would expect, at the entry level.

On the other end of the robot complexity scale, there is the "Virtual Encounters" robot invented by Ray Kurzweil, of synth keyboard fame and member of the National Inventors Hall of Fame. This robot is intended to take on the virtual persona of a someone you are talking and interacting with, this someone being at a remote location. In other words, Ray's robot "channels" your friend. At the same time, presumably, your friend has the same robot and it is "channeling" you for him. Got that? These robots will supposedly be programmable with physical characteristics of your chat-buddies so they will morph into the correct friend whenever you start a conversation with them. No word on when Ray will be able to breathe life into his patents, but I wouldn't hold MY breath.

While working robots are doing a bit of everything these days, they don't really look like we think robots should. But that is changing because humans have this powerful drive to create machines in their own image. So keep saving up those batteries, Angry Bot fans. Pretty soon you too will be able to pal around with an Angry Bot of your own.

Posted by The Stickler, not Action Geek

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