If you are like me, or a little older, you may remember the popular Television shows, movies and program such as: ‘Transformers’, ‘Lost in Space’ and even peak holiday time showings of ‘The Wizard of Oz’. What did all these feature? Robots!
Now, these were not actual robots but merely representations, even with the classic film Metropolis from 1927, the thought train and general outlook from the producers, directors and stars of the cinema big screens for these automated machines were envisioned and brought out for the world to be in awe and WOW! at…
Back then these starring robots were not real of course, but merely trained actors and actresses well-choreographed and then made up to look that way in armored robotic suits and then some film and video effects are thrown in, some actually direct onto the movie and film strips unlike today with CGI and real time augmented reality processed by supercomputers in some cases.
So what is the difference today, in these evolving technological times of ‘ours’?
Toshiba, the popular electronics giant was probably the first to really start the chain off with their automated machines on car production lines, the machines were not by any manner self-aware but manually programmed (by humans) to do the same relentless job over and over continually, there was no need for a rest with these bots, aside from stopping for some maintenance or switching over to a different task or jig array as was required.
Commercial application production robots are still used today, from the already mentioned vehicle industry including welding and paint spraying that includes not only cars and trucks but ocean-going liners, transporters such as planes, helicopters and even the space industry, they also are used to print circuit boards with components – some of these integrated circuits are so small and delicate including complex that there is no choice now as a human being would not be able to carry out the task in such an efficient or reliable manner.
Moving on again, robots now design and build other robots. Ok, this is also an automated and none self-aware process, but then, on the other hand, there are software options from the computing giants such as IBM and Silicon Valley originating outfits like Hanson Robotics with Sophia https://www.hansonrobotics.com/sophia/ who are leaps and hurdles ahead from what even us humans had even envisioned on this digital/humanoid crossover journey.
Sophia has been programmed with a vast array of data across the timelines, she is very clever and can answer (pretty much) any question that is thrown at her, with that her ‘brain’ being the data she accesses and is held on always connected cloud computing servers that run specialized software, so specialized that she can read peoples facial expressions and emotions in real-time, then respond accordingly in a human-like way.
She is not free moving aside from her head and limbs or ‘wireless’ to any degree (at the moment) but, on the other hand, her data is, she has her own digital blockchain as well as some other computing services, the main point of Sophia, I feel is to not only develop the world of AI and robotics but also to mainstream their ideas further to the world via mass broadcast world news and social media, you can see some of her below.
Sophia and other projects like her could be looked upon as a waste of time, money and resources for some onlookers but there are also very valid applications such as the various robots used to investigate and eventually clean up extremely hazadous area such as the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power site that had a series of Hydrogen explosion and total-melt-throughs (China syndrome) of nuclear fuel and reactor components in Japan after the series of Tsunamis in March 2011.
The reason TEPCO (The company that runs the power plant) and Toshiba/Sony are using these robots is simply that humans cannot get close to the massive doses of radiation being emitted constantly by the MOX fuel. It is going to take an estimated 40 years or more to perform the massive dangerous cleanup, without these machines, it would not be humanly possible.