Living under one roof with an intelligent machine seems to come right out of a movie in which we all might perform in the years to come. We will be actors and spectators to changes that will be made through extensive use of robots. At work, at home, from work to home, at the restaurant or at massage, we all will interact with robots. Do we need to prepare for this change or will it take place naturally?
The robots used for housework are becoming more intelligent and will have a positive impact on our free time which is offered by such robot. So far robots can be classed into vacuum cleaner robots, robots for cooking, robots for assisting people with disabilities, robots that help children to learn, robots that help to weight loss and the list goes on. Can we integrate all these robots into one? This is the challenge in the near future, to make a universal robot for housekeeping and to help family members.
All these tasks are done by people who have two hands, two legs, and a head. The perfect robot for household chores should contain the same structure? Hand mobility and the ease of objects manipulation, easy way to walk or run on two legs, the head that thinks, sees and hears everything that is happening around us, makes from us humans the ultimate machine. I might add a prediction – the perfect robot for household chores looks, thinks and moves like a human. This robot could be bought from stores by 2030, the year in which scientists believe that robots will become more intelligent than people.
What is a household robot?
The question seems simple, but the answer is as complicated as a robot. Each person has different expectations from a robot, a mature person has a specific wish list, while a child has a completely different list of expectations. A household robot must be an intelligent device that autonomously does useful tasks. Such a robot must have the ability to listen to owners and to meet the three laws of robotics.
The three laws of robotics:
- A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
- A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the first law.
- A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the first or second laws.
Cleaning the house, preparing breakfast and dinner, wash clothes, care for children, should be only a few tasks under the care of the perfect robot. Cutting the ribbon that heralds the beginning of intelligent robots used around the house has taken place many years before writing this article. The universities came first into the development of such robots. A short list of intelligent robots that do tasks at a beginner level in the kitchen or in rooms are: James and Rosie, Motoman SDA10, Care-O-bot 3, Armar-III or PR2.
Can we have the perfect household robot?
Yes, we can have it in the coming years. Existing technologies are continuously improved, from artificial skin, environment recognition, up to a way to make the robot to learn from experience. This list is long, I added only three features which are among the most important.
I said artificial skin because a perfect robot used in house must feel all that is happening around it, and with all his extremities. Object recognition is closely related to the robot’s ability to learn. The first thing to do is to recognize the object, following lessons to learn all about that object. Given the almost endless list of objects that can be found in a house, the only way for a robot to handle any situation is to learn how and what can do with those objects. And of course, the best method is used for thousands of years, through repetition and by combining the information.
Professor Osamu Hasegawa from Kawada Industries and Tokyo Insitute of Technology created a humanoid robot able to learn called Hiro. Learning way is based on knowledge stored in computer and on information taken from the vast library called the Internet.
Until now any robot built is far to be the perfect robot that we need, but is a beginning that makes us believe that in the next decades we will have another intelligent house member made of metal and plastic.
The most advanced household robot
The latest version released by Honda for ASIMO was in 2011. ASIMO is the most advanced humanoid robot in terms of technological all-in-a-package with a height of 130 cm and a weight of 48 kg. The robot has a running speed of 9 km/h, much less than the average human of 24,1 km/h. The number of degrees of freedom – 57 – reveals a flexible robot that can move its head, arms, hands, hip and legs. The new version of the robot integrates new technologies to improve the capacity of balancing and recognition, but also to has an autonomous behavior.
The dynamic balance allows the robot to move on any surface, to climb up or downstairs, to overcome obstacles or to run. Recognition ability is required to identify objects and to avoid fixed objects or people. Autonomous mode is necessary to hear and feel what is happening in the environment. It can recognize voices and people or can have a conversation.
The price? Yes, it huge – 1.900.000 EUR (~ 2.500.000 US dollars).
In the following decades the world will be subject to changes and integration into a new way of life. We will use robots in the house, at work, and on street. A world where we are partners with intelligent machines, robots that will cook and will take care of our children.