Back in the earlier 1950s, it was Gort. Seven feet tall and solid metal, movie star Gort arrived in The Day the Earth Stood Still to quell human violence. Forget it, Gort! I can’t do that – nor can anyone else. Before he can deliver his message, Earthlings go crazy and start shooting. “For our policemen, we created a race of robots to patrol the planets in spaceships. At the first sign of violence, they react automatically against the aggressor,” said the space visitor. Don’t introduce Gort to my boss, by the way.
Today, the robot darling is Roomba, which scoots around sucking up floor dirt until its little battery runs down or its plastic belly fills up. Hurrah for Roomba. I can’t vacuum my rugs; I don’t want to do it; but, sorry Home Shopping Club, I don’t believe it can really do a better job than a Merry Maid.
However, there is a diversity of tracks along which security robots are walking or rolling or whatever as they evolve into multi-technology, multi-functional, non-union, non-bleeding patrolmen.
Like peopleThe Japanese, targeting the ultimate walkman, now spend billions yen to develop a humanoid robot with the mental, physical and emotional capacity of, say, a 5-year-old human. If you want it to drool or dance on a bank floor, this design is for you. But watch out, the boys at the Future Robotics Technology Center at the Chiba Institute of Technology are focused.
Koreans may prove more practical. Their robot scientists are working on home guards. “This is a whole new concept gadget, which will set a new trend of home networking, because this device can move around the home,’’ an SK Telecom official said. In case of emergencies, like fire or gas, the robot’s sensors detect dangers and its camera-eyes will snap pictures of the situation and send them with a message to your cell phone. You will be the first person to see your house burning to the ground.
According to the Robotic Industries Association, there’s a robotic boom, with about 20 percent annual growth. Military robots go where soldiers don’t want to. Factory robots paint car doors faster. The first programmed industrial robot – ironically called “Ultimate” – worked at a General Motors plant in the early 1960s. Good luck, Ultimate, and I hope you don’t have a GM pension.
The biggest robot advance was the computer chip. It’s brains over brawn – as always.
There still are challenges. Robby Robot needs three-dimensional vision, using multiple cameras, or with a hybrid system that involves other sensors. The platforms continue. The future? Some say it is here already. There are robots that patrol inside or outside facilities, react to situations and reach conclusions as they take action.