Robots relocate among humans

As Apple admits the majority of its phones, tablets, computers and TV devices contain chips susceptible to security breaches, alongside devices by other manufacturers  that include Google, Samsung and Microsoft,  comes the news that robots are now relocating among humans in what is being dubbed a Cambrian explosion according to Wired  that has unleashed its own version of “life” on Earth, in a sui generis genus, evolving in ways, perhaps inevitably similar to proven biological organisms.

Roboticists hone robots by  mimicking natural selection where what works is kept and refined.  What doesn’t work is throw-away.  “If we want to scrap something totally, we can do that,” says Nick Gravish, a student of robotic and biology intersections studying the robotis and biology intersection at UC San Diego. “We can take the best pieces from some design and put them in a new design,” he says “and get rid of the things we don't need.” Intelligent design following  natural selection principles.

Biology being a slow developer, however is more less flexible than the roboticists.    A  biped robot can get two extra limbs to quickly become a quadruped. Animals need thousands of years to do the same thing.  “Evolution is as much a trap as a means to advance.”  notes Gerald Loeb, CEO and co-founder of SynTouch,  giving robot touch skills giving robots the power to feel  and it also locks creators  into a lot of hardware that worked well in early iterations but cannot be changed  because everything robotic built uses that earlier creation.”

The Big Bang Cambrian Explosion  some 550 million years ago created an incredible spread of complex organisms.  Lead theory  from Andrew Parker as to why vision developed was to allow the new species to better find mates, hunt food, and establish an evolutionary arms race.

This could well be happening with robotics!  Having developed with senses allowing  them understand the world and act independently,  robots now navigate building  maps of their surroundings with lasers. The robocars of the Darpa 2004 Grand Challenge built the foundation for consumer self-driving cars, and  advances in computer vision  have help robots to  really advanced vision. 

One companion robot called Kuri navigates with lasers,  and now can also recognise faces.  Getting robots to see well involves training algorithms and very good data. Algorithms will get more powerful and efficient from here on in a literal and metaphorical vision that could set off a Cambrian Explosion of robotics.

And it's not just that robots are adopting new senses—it's that the proliferation of those new technologies is letting them settle into new niches. Earth features such an incredible diversity of creatures partly because the planet has lots of different ecosystems for organisms to exploit. The same thing is poised to happen for robotics as in the diversity of simple vehicles that roll on four wheels, as in sports cars, SUVs,  off-road pickup trucks, and tractor trailers. 

“It's going to be even broader I think for robots,” deduces (left)  Jonathan Hurst, CTO of Agility Robotics and creators of biped robot Cassie is a highly evolved Atrias, a robot meant to escape the lab and scramble into the market (Cassie is already available for research purposes—Agility Robotics' larger plan is to turn it into a workhorse for making deliveries and inspecting power plants).  Cassie can take a fall and survive. It's a much tougher robot that Atrias was,” says Agility Robotics CTO Jonathan Hurst. “Cassie can steer, pick its direction. Cassie can stand in one place, it has ankles, it can actually balance, whereas Atrias couldn't.”

Cassie walks on two legs, a nice generalist way of getting around. So the robot might work nicely as a base for a telepresence screen to walk around the office. “We're going to want a robot that's the same size to get around the factory floor and carry around 100-pound bags of something,” says Hurst. “There are going to be lots and lots of different niches, different sizes, different masses, different applications.”

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