In the world of science fiction, there are quite a few robots performing any number of functions. From Rosie the housekeeping robot on the Jetsons, to the protocol droid C-3PO, who is fluent in over 6 million forms of communication, the small and large screens have shown us visions of robots filling nearly every role you can imagine. And now, somewhere out there is a robot programmed to beat you in a game of rock, paper, scissors. If you thought that was the pinnacle of the technology, you are mistaken. Nowadays there are robots designed to do almost anything you can imagine.
Take the arts, for example. At Georgia Tech, there is a robotic musical assistant called Shimi, which uses facial recognition to point its speakers at in the right direction, recommends songs and bops along to the beat. In Taipei, there is a RoboThespian, a humanoid robot that is not yet on the level of Laurence Olivier, but is getting there.
Speaking of actors, there is a restaurant in Harbin, China which, rather than using out-of-work performers to wait tables, has a staff of 18 robots that perform tasks ranging from cooking to serving the food. Another job that robots may be taking from ordinary people is that of healthcare workers. The Bandit-II, a robot developed at the University of Southern California, helps guide paraplegics through their exercises and recovery.
Robots are encroaching in the sports arena as well. A Chinese robot dubbed Nao can shadow box, there is a RoboCup soccer finals in Mexico City this year, and a Joggobot can keep you company when you go running. Another physically demanding role filled by robots is in the military. The US government recently contracted with ReconRobotics for 1000 pocket-sized robots for deployment in Afghanistan.
Perhaps the strangest area where robots are taking over is in the social scene. Programmers are teaching robots good manners, such as getting out of the way when a person is walking past in a crowded corridor. Even more interesting is a care facility in Japan that is using interactive robots as companions for patients with dementia.
Robots aren’t limited to building cars or sweeping floors anymore. Maybe someday soon they can write my articles for me and translate my girlfriend’s speech patterns when she is upset with me (which is, frankly, all the time…)
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Edited by Rachel Ramsey