October 21, 2014

The Future: Robots Are People, Too

Hello, Dave: Honda’s ASIMO signs, “I love you”.01001001 00100000 01101100 01101111 01110110 01100101 00100000 01010011 01101001 01110010 01101001.

People are such a bother. When used as labor, they take far too many bathroom breaks, lunch breaks, cigarette breaks, sick days and tend to want to go home after something as simple as a 12-hour shift. They also like to get paid a fair wage, which is ridiculous.

It’s because of all of these shortcomings that the world, and America particularly, needs robots. Lots of robots. You can blame unionization, the Johnson administration or the spotted owl, but there’s a reason American manufacturing jobs have moved overseas: cheap labor. Robots, for all of their blinking lights and gobs of RAM, don’t ask for anything more than a wee bit of wattage. They don’t need vacation days, a cost of living increase or waste valuable time talking about the Kardashians first thing in the morning. They don’t even acknowledge morning. They’ll work 24/7, if needed. They’ve been a mainstay in some factories for years and have recently moved into the medical profession. It seems robots are even willing to assist in your vasectomy. Step right up.

Now, you’re probably saying to yourself, “But I thought this was the people issue?” True. But in a recent survey of area Roombas (one of which is bumping into my ankle as I write this), people were found to be virtually useless. (Somewhere between grass clippings and aging golden retrievers.) The survey—written entirely in binary code in order to protect anonymity—looked into the future of Southwest Florida living and found that the “living” part might be optional.

While most robots in the U.S. are large, clunky mechanical arms that can put someone’s Kia together with spectacular precision, they also tend to not pay attention to your arrival and, may potentially cut you in half without warning. It’s nothing personal. It’s just their way. With that said, more personable robotics are on the rise. The most obvious example is the aforementioned Roomba, which can clean your floors autonomously while you nap or watch the game. But robots are capable of much, much more.

One look at Honda’s ASIMO (Advanced Step in Innovative MObility)—the unattainable Rolls Royce of humanoid robots—shows it’s capable of doing virtually anything any other four-foot-three-inch spacesuit-wearing human child can do (and has daily shows at Disneyland to prove it). But there are plenty of other robots available for home use that don’t require you to break into a Japanese research facility in order to call it your own.

The current favorite among the bot crowd is the Luna from RoboDynamics. A beautiful combination of elliptical machine and dental hygienist, Luna stands five-foot-two-inches tall and has an eight-inch LCD touchscreen face featuring all the personality of a TomTom GPS. The hope is that third-party developers will make apps for Luna, giving her actual personality. In the meantime, we suggest you go to robotshop.com and pick yourself up a Genibo robot dog capable of autonomous behavior, voice command recognition and faux wetting the carpet. Neatest feature? Surveillance. It can be used to photograph and transmit images—so you can keep an eye on that rebellious Roomba while you’re out. Trust us, they’re up to something.

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