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I.K.bot

Ivan Kirigin's views on Robotics & Culture: future. perfect. progress.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Joe Engelberger at IREX

Behind those flirting eyes and underneath that weird stuff that might be skin, is the future. Or so they think in robot land. Who do they think they are fooling?

Certainly not Joe Engelberger, the father of modern robotics, who emerged exasperated from a visit to the international robot show in Tokyo to stick a prong right into the circuitry of the Japanese robot industry.

"These are toys that are being made," he said during a 'oh heaven help me' plea to an audience of scientists and industry representatives in Tokyo this week.
There are indeed many cure useless humanoids out there, but the research isn't without reward.

Generally, I'd like to see more people try to solve part of the problem first, and then expand the frontier. He gives the plea to develop aides for the elderly. I think a "smart" walker could help.

There probably isn't enough of an engineered environment, which is why most people think that robotic aides are a ways away. Start from something simple: are there stairs? What are you going to do about it?

Get a bit more complicated: how do you handle delicate items like dishes?

I think there needs to be a flexible platform developed that can start by using tele-operation, and move on to more complicated tasks autonomously. It probably shouldn’t be humanoid. It needs cameras and sensors for local obstacle avoidance. It needs fairly dexterous manipulators on arms which can reach a high shelf.

At a presentation about 2 years ago at CMU, I saw Engelberger speak about this same topic. It surprised me that he was asking for funding. Why should just a man need to look hard for what he considers to be an urgent and lucrative application of the field he pioneered?

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