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"anthromorphizing robots and deconstructing humans"

Today, at Almaden, we had a wonderful time with David Calkins who is the President of the Robotics Society of America.

David gave an engaging talk describing several robots: Sony's Aibo, Honda's Asimo, Kawada's Promet, TMSUK, Kokoro Dreams' Dinosaurs, Actroid, Sony's QRIO, a traffic directing robot, Stanford's Stanley, and Sanryu's fire-fighting robot. He also reported seeing trumpet playing robots from Toyota! It is quite interesting to note that most robots on this list are made in Japan.

He described several competitions, for example, Trinity College's Fire Fighting Home Robot Contest.

He lamented the fact that Sony sunset Aibo and QRIO.

He described a number of fascinating potential applications: remembering names at a cocktail party, reading emails, building a relationship with elderly and young, early detection of lonely dead people in homes, entertainment, security, fire-fighting, etc. Without mincing words, he said that we need robots for (guilt-free) "slavery"!

We had an obligatory discussion on whether robots will take over the world!

People feel intimidated when dealing with robots that are taller than themselves. This explains the size of Honda's Asimo.

Looking to the future, the basic thought is that while we can build extremely smart mechanical contraptions and equip them with complicated "if-then-else" rules, these machines do not possess cognitive intelligence. For example, it is hard to recognize faces, to detect dirty clothes, to distinguish a dangerous fire from a pleasant fireplace or just a hot light bulb, or to distinguish a real person from a photograph. He feels that cognitive intelligence will eventually be conquered, but machines exhibiting consciousness will never be built.

He ended with a beautiful statement that he is (and, sometimes, all of us are) guilty of "anthromorphizing robots and deconstructing humans". He is currently searching for a definition of a robot!


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