Robots could soon be calling the shots
SAN FRANCISCO – Someday you could be taking orders from a robot … but in a nice way.
For example, imagine a body suit with sensors that can guide you through a golf swing like Tiger Woods’. Or a robo-birdwatcher that can tell you where to look for that rare ivory-billed woodpecker. Or an android gardener that can show you where to plant your seeds.
Those are just some of the examples of robot-human interaction sketched out by experts in the field — examples that may well become reality in the next 10 years.
The next big trends in human-robot interaction were among the topics covered here last weekend during the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, featuring such pioneers as Cynthia Breazeal from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Breazeal has worked with Hollywood types for years to create friendlier, more socially aware robots, and one of her projects involves the development of therapeutic robo-toys that could improve a patient’s outlook. But she told MSNBC.com that the robots of the next decade may not always match the stereotypes of robotic people (think C-3PO from “Star Wars”) or animals (such as the cuddly Teddy from “A.I.”).
“The technology is becoming virtually ubiquitous,” she said. “Before, when the first computers came out, there were rooms and rooms of computers. … Now, they’re [embedded] in the doorknobs. Robotics is going to be the same way. You’re already seeing robotics integrated into your car today.”
Robotic coaches and companions
The voice-enabled, GPS-based navigational systems in cars are arguably one type of robot. Another type could be built right into your clothing. Breazeal is already working on the concept of a sensor-equipped suit that would enable a robot to read your mood based on whether you’re slouching or sitting up straight. She said the concept could also be applied to sports instruction — say, for tennis or golf. The robo-suit could read how your arms move through a swing, and even give you slight nudges to improve your form, she said.
That’s not to say robots will take control of your life. Rather, they’re more likely to serve as artificially intelligent advice-givers, assistants or companions, Breazeal said. As baby boomers become older, they’ll still want to lead active lives — but they may well welcome a little robotic help to do it.
“If i want to cook a meal, and I can’t do it by myself but I could do it with a robot … if I want to garden but I have a hard time getting down and the robot can help me do that … that’s where I would find value, as opposed to just saying, ‘Go do my gardening’ or ‘Go cook my meal,’” Breazeal said. “As we design technology, we have to respect the human life cycle.”