Just a few days ago, news broke that one of the final pieces of Google’s robotic puzzle fell into place. They were awarded a new patent which outlines that users will be able to download and customize the personality of a robot in the same way that one might download an app. A range of personalities would be stored on a cloud-based system, allowing a single robot to interact differently with different people. Specific idiosyncrasies could be customized for each user, just as a single computer has different accounts for each family member. The patent also says that the robot’s personality could replicate that of its owner, a deceased loved one or even a celebrity.
Although robots that mimic the behavior of humans still have a long way to go, they are becoming more like us everyday and some famous scientists are concerned. We all know the story about the evil robots who after much programming learn to think for themselves and ultimately take over the human race. But is this idea too far-fetched? Elon Musk, the Chairman and CEO of Tesla, doesn’t seem to think so. He recently donated $10 million dollars to keep artificial intelligence in check and he’s not alone. There are many scientists, professors, and security analysts who are concerned about the rise of artificial intelligence that learns to think for itself and refuses to do what humans ask. They believe that the development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.
Lucky for Google, their Chairman and CEO, Eric Schmidt, doesn’t agree. “These concerns are normal,” he said onstage during an event in New York City last year, “they’re also to some degree misguided. People have been concerned about machines taking over the world for centuries.” We have nothing to fear from an artificially intelligent future, he argues. In fact, historically economies have prospered the more they adopt these new technologies. It would be a bit surprising if he thought otherwise, artificial intelligence is at the core of almost all of Google’s current and future technologies.
It’s also not all about Man vs. Machine, there are many forward thinking companies who are already planning for a robot filled future which frees (human) employees from some of their most mundane tasks. They are investigating the ways in which robots will help them increase their productivity, lower their costs and also improve customer satisfaction. In July 2014, Düsseldorf Airport unveiled the world’s first robotic parking valet. Customers leave their car, and a robot picks it up and parks it in one of the dedicated spaces. The system connects to the airport’s flight database, allowing customers to easily find their vehicle ready and waiting for them upon their return.
Another great example of how smart brands are developing innovative robotic technology, is US based hardware retailer Lowe’s with their OSHbot robot sales assistant. The OSHbot is a product of the Lowe’s Innovation Lab which is dedicated to building new technologies that solve consumer problems. Essentially, they’re in the business of making science fiction a reality. Their mission is to completely rethink how retail is done. The OSHbot robot is programmed to greet shoppers as they enter and help them locate specific items within the store. It is also able to communicate with customers in multiple languages and remotely connect with expert employees at other stores to answer specific project questions.
Similarly in Japan, Nestlé is using humanoid robots to sell their coffee machines and other home appliances. Their robot is called “Pepper”, and it is the first robot in the world that is able to read and respond to human emotion. Equipped with the latest voice and emotion recognition technology, Pepper is able to analyze how people are feeling by simply reading their facial expressions and listening to their tone of voice.
Technology is the future of the world and with all of the exciting innovations in the field of robotics we have a lot to look forward to. Everyday, scientists continue to create more human-like robots, with human-like intelligence and thought processes. Although there is no guarantee that Google will actually turn their patent into the next humanoid robot, we can all safely say that a future with robots of some kind is inevitable. The question is, are we ready?