March 16, 2006

Klaatu barada. . .necktie

from - RSA

I've recently come into some funding for research in artificial intelligence and robotics, so I tend to pay attention to how robots are presented to the public. The NYTimes has an article on The Shape of Robots to Come, which is interesting enough, except that the gadgets they describe don't really seem to be robots in any meaningful sense. For example, the article describes a Scoty as follows:

Chief among [Scoty's functions] are managing a personal computer's communication and entertainment abilities, finding and playing songs by voice request, recording television shows, telling users when they have e-mail and, again by voice request, reading the e-mail aloud. It takes and then sends voice-to-text e-mail dictation. It takes pictures, and gives the time when asked.

So how exactly is the Scoty different from my laptop, loaded with appropriate voice recognition software? It might rotate itself to take pictures, but that's not mentioned, and in any case would add no more value than a computerized tripod for a modern camera. The article later describes a real (though simple) robot, the Roomba, but for the most part it's just talking about computers in unconventional housings, perhaps with a few servo motors that let them rotate in place. I like robots, and want to see more of them, but not if that means hearing, "Don't call it a Debbie Diaper-Wetter doll; it's a robot."

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Posted by RSA at March 16, 2006 12:38 PM
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