Thursday, September 4, 2008

Girls Like Science 2

I've decided it's time for me to come out of the closet. Yes, I admit it. I read Popular Science, Popular Mechanics and Scientific American every month. And I get excited about all the advances and interesting things that are in store for our future. How about you? Want to come clean too?

Why did I keep it a secret for so long? Well, I don't think it was necessarily a secret so much as a lack of fellow techie-oholics to discuss this subject with (my brother only has so many hours in a day! :-D)

Fueled by an intense amount of technological research for my newest project, I'm dying to share just a tidbit of what I'm reading. I'm going to assume there are a few of you out there who might be remotely interested.

Today's topic: Robots that can wash dishes. Seriously.

This is from Scientific American Reports: Special Edition on Robotics, May 2006. If you'd like to read the article for yourself, here is the link:

A Robot in Every Home by Bill Gates

In essence, the robotics industry is beginning to develop much the same as the computer industry did in the mid-70s.

"The industry's niche products include robotic arms that perform surgery, surveillance robots deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan that dispose of roadside bombs, and domestic robots that vacuum the floor. Electronics companies have made toys that imitate people or dogs or dinosaurs, and hobbyists are anxious to get their hands on the latest version of the Lego robotics system."

Of course, the industry is running into the usual technology issues that plague every new industry. Robotics in particular has difficulties with visual recognition, navigation and machine learning. There is no standardization yet as the creation process for this industry is still in the explore stage.

Little known facts:

The word "Robot" was popularized in 1921 by Czech playwright Karel Capek.

People have envisioned creating robotlike devices for thousands of years. In Greek and Roman mythology, there were mechanical servants made from gold.

In the first century, Heron of Alexandria - the great engineer who invented the first steam engine - designed automatons, including one who supposedly could talk.

Leonardo da Vinci's 1495 sketch of a mechanical knight - one who could sit up and move his arms and legs - is considered to be the first plan for a humanoid robot.

Jumping forward, do I even need to discuss the familiar figures from Isaac Asimov's I, Robot or Star Wars and Star Trek. Who wouldn't want a C3P0 or a Data at their beck and call.

"According to the International Federation of Robotics, about two million personal robots were in use around the world in 2004, and another seven million will be installed by the end of the year. In South Korea, The Ministry of Communication and Information hopes to put a robot in every home by 2013. The Japanese Robot Association predicts that by 2025, the personal robot industry will be worth more than $50 billion a year worldwide."

All interesting facts and something to ponder. But my interest in this subject is a little more pedestrian. What you won't see on the link page is the great graphics that went with this article. One full page picture detailing how robotic life would impact the household. Imagine: A lawn-mowing robot. A floor cleaning robot. A food and medicine dispensing robot. A laundry folding robot. And if there is a Robotic God - please one that will wash the dishes. I pray I live to see these available in my life time as most of those jobs I detest. However, leaving them undone insults my Better Homes and Gardens perfect house ethic. Imagine being able to set a robot to mow the law and walk away? Right at this moment, with the lawn several days past needing to be mowed, I'd pay big bucks to have that available.

My question to you then is what chore would you choose for your first robot?


Tiffany Aller said...

Cleaning out the kitty litter boxes - I absolutely hate that chore and Chris is counting the days until I no longer have the excuse of being pregnant so I can start doing it again.

Carrie Lofty said...



And Tiff, you need to get feline pine. It's amazing. No scooping out the clumps; you just flush the solid waste. The pine bits smell like sawdust, which is a nice change from the usual nasty.