Friday, December 15, 2006

The Saga of Saya!!

Saya - The Receptionist (c) Copyright Washington Post

The Complete Star Wars Saga will be shown on Star Movies. I was thrilled. Let me tell you at the very beginning, I always fantasized extra-terrestrial beings and matters. Spend a major chunk of my childhood days thinking about how life on the Moon and Mars will be or an evening walk on Venus will be.

The small black and white idiot box arrived in our house during the early eighties when the only channel was Doordarshan. On Sundays from eleven in the morning the TV was completely mine. “Star Wars.” No matter what, I used to be glued to the television set. Darth Vader and Ric Olie were my heroes. Again on Wednesday evening at 7.30 the idiot box was just mine. “Johnny Sokko & His Flying Robot.” Robots are still one of my special interest. Errr…its humanoid more than robots now.

For decades, popular culture has been enthralled with the possibility of robots that act and look like humans. Research is moving towards developing commercial humanoids that will cook for us, clean for us, become our best friends, teach our children, and even fall in love with us. . Like many new technologies, these early generations of commercially available humanoids are costly curiosities, useful for entertainment, but little else. Yet, in time, they will accomplish a wide variety of tasks in homes, battlefields, nuclear plants, government installations, factory floors, and even space stations.

Till now humans adapted technology. In the future it will be the opposite and technology will adapt to us. And the way we interact with machines will undergo a humongous change which in turn will impact our lives. With billions of dollars being invested on the development of robots which will alter our daily lives, the ‘age of robot’ will see an early dawn. Japan is leading the pack mostly so because of its unique societal needs. Low level of birthrate in the country which has the longest lifespan on earth, Japan is fretting about who will staff the factory floors in years to come.

For robots to be profitably integrated into the everyday lives of humans within military, commercial, educational or domestic contexts, robots must be able to interact with humans in more meaningful, natural ways. As artificial agents inundate our lives, it will be increasingly important to enable multi-modal, intuitive modes of communication that include speech, gesture, movement, affect, tactile stimulation and context. Body dictates behavior, and if we want a robot to relate with and learn from humans, it must be able to map its body to our own.

Humanoid Robotics also offers a unique research tool for understanding the human brain and body. Already, humanoids have provided revolutionary new ways for studying cognitive science. Using humanoids, researchers can embody their theories and take them to task at a variety of levels. As our understanding deepens, we will be prompted to freshly reexamine fundamental notions such as dualism, will and consciousness that have spurred centuries of controversy within Western thought.

Current Humanoid projects:

Cog: Developed at MIT AI Labs. Cog is equipped with a sophisticated visual system capable of saccades, smooth pursuit, vergence, and coordinating head and eyes through modeling of the human vestibulo-ocular reflex.

Kismet: A Robot designed to assist research into social interactions between robots and humans at the MIT AI Labs.

Wendy: (Waseda ENgineering Designed sYmbiont) is being developed by the Waseda University as a robot that has the ability to perform co-operative tasks.

Hadaly 2: A Humanoid Project by the Waseda University for interactive communication with human beings.

Ursula: An entertainment robot developed by Florida Robotics to amuse crowds at Universal Studios

ASIMO: A new humanoid developed by HONDA that uses the walking technology developed over the past 20 years at HONDA, but in a smaller, more affordable package

Fujitsu has developed the HOAP-1 (Humanoid Open Architecture Platform).

Sony has developed the SDR-4X that can sing and dance.

Most likely, we will never fully understand, much less recreate everything that it means to be human. As the frontiers of our self-understanding expand, humanoid robots may simply follow (and, at times, propel) our continuously changing conception of what we are

This leaves me with only one thought; how will marketers in moon in the year 2050 deal with branding. Maybe the surface on Moon will have large format interactive LCD screen displaying only your favorite brand message as you walk past them along with Saya hand in hand.

Do let me know, if you come across any interesting information about humanoids.

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