Let’s talk about artificial intelligence and robotics, what is it exactly? Right off the bat you’re probably thinking a cybernetic organism with living tissue over a metal endoskeleton… yeah.
well this is just a small part of it artificial intelligence, more commonly known as AI doesn’t always have to exist in a robot think about a self-driving car or a space probe, both of these are robots, yes robots, with varying levels of AI. and then of course you have things like Netflix or search engines but we’ll get into that a little bit later.
Okay so the two terms robotics and artificial intelligence actually overlap but for the most part they’re quite separate. Now there are some variations of where the overlap but generally this is how it goes.
Let’s break this diagram down starting outside with a simple machine like a vacuum cleaner it has one function and one button to control it this is classed as a machine, just straightforward simple. Now to turn this into a robot you could make it a little smaller, add some motors so it could drive itself around and most importantly upload the floor plan of your home and then yes it would be classed as a robot going around the house cleaning up.
But what if people kept moving furniture all the time or getting in the way, how could you get around that? Well this is where the two overlap, this time you don’t need to upload the floor plan. No, instead they have built-in sensors this time round it learns the floor plan it learns that right outside the kitchen there is a very high traffic area and probably needs the turbo mode.
It even figures out that there’s a spot right under your bed that hasn’t been cleaned in a very very long time. Now that’s adaptive behavior that’s machine learning that’s an artificially intelligent robot. Okay then what’s about pure AI what does this look like? Well pick up your phone and ask Google to make a reservation at your favorite restaurant but wait isn’t this just taking a few boxes on a website? A bit simple right?
Well yeah, but levels of AI increase when you have a really deep accent or when it actually calls up the restaurant and speaks to them for you. Don’t believe me? Try it out yourself check out Google duplex. But of course there are limitations, that vacuum cleaner sure is swell. But if you asked it to wash your car it would be very confused.
Probably won’t do anything at all. Why? Because it hasn’t been told how to do this and if it did it certainly does not have the robotic components to do so. You see how all of this is fitting in together now Okay so isn’t AI just making us lazier then? Isn’t this a problem? No not at all. Sometimes we just can’t do the things we want to do. Let me explain… When we communicate with our spacecraft we use radio waves for communication and in a vacuum these waves travel at the speed of light Approximately 300,000km/s fast,
I know. But actually this poses quite a problem. The Curiosity rover was sent out to Mars in 2011 now because of these huge distances, it takes around 12 minutes or so to get any information from Mars to Earth and then 12 more minutes to send the information back now this time varies a little due to orbits but can you see the problem?
So if we had a basic robot it would do as you say you would tell it to travel over to that rock you thought was interesting and then you would receive pictures of it. But that’s just taken 12 minutes and the photos they’re not great you expected something else something a little better. So you tell it to travel to another rock and there goes another 12 minutes.
But what if we told curiosity what we were looking for wouldn’t this make things easier? The rover could just send data back and we could analyze it accordingly. Well this is exactly what they did in 2016 after Curiosity’s initial mission the engineers and scientists upgraded its AI system and it was able to do just this. You might be thinking that this is all code and algorithms it’s just the computer scientists working on this and yeah they do play a big part.
But what if the Curiosity rover fell on its side? Seriously what would you do 35 million miles away What you’re going to write some sort of code to flip it over? Please… So don’t be disheartened that AI is coming in and doing things for us there’s a tremendous amount of work to be done still. It’s a lot more than just Netflix recommendations,
It’s about reversing the effects of climate change, stopping tsunamis from their devastating effects or even performing open-heart surgery AI and robotics can help with a lot of this and we are nowhere near finished there is so much more to do. So you best get back to work! Anyway I’ll be back with another soon