EVOLUTION OF ROBOTICS

The word robot was first mentioned in a fictional play by Karel Čapek, a Czech writer. The story of play revolved around a company called Rossum’s Universal Robots, which was depicted to have gained immense popularity after starting to manufacture workers in large numbers. These so-called workers did everything that humans preferred not to do while all they lacked was emotions.

Since that imagination until now, we have come a long way to the age of AI-infused autonomous machines where robots are being granted citizenships and digital human is also a thing. While recalling that robots were initially supposed to be doing only labour-intensive mindless jobs, here is a sneak peek into the exciting journey that this technology has taken:

Emergence of Robotics

The industrial revolution paved the way for new advances in the area of science and technology. This was also the time when “robotics” was established as a study of science and usage of robots. In an attempt to prevent an anticipated misuse of robots in a rapidly increasing automation industry, science fiction writer Isaac Asimov drafted the following famous “Laws of Robotics”:

Law One: A robot may not injure a human being, or, through inaction, allow a being to come to harm.

Law Two: A robot must obey orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with a higher order law.

Law Three: A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with a higher order law.

To showcase the necessity of such laws, Asimov went on to write about three fictional stories in which robots brought the end of humanity. He hoped to see a world where these human-like robots would act only as our servants- henceforth, proposing a mandatory set of programming rules to prevent them from causing any harm to humans.

The world of Today

Technology is all set to make us, not only physically, but also emotionally dependent on robots. An example of this is Yotaro, a baby robot built with the sole aim to encourage young couples in Japan to become parents. It lets you experience the “real sense” of physical contact as with a real baby and supposed to trigger similar emotions.

On touching its soft and warm face or stomach, Yotaro sets off to show a variety of different reactions like smiling, crying, sleeping, sneezing, and expressing anger. The exact reaction chosen depends on the sense of touch that it experienced and interpreted. An intelligent emotion control program handles the change of expressions- for example, when its nose is touched, Yotaro sneezes; when its cheeks are touched, it becomes happy and so on. It can even simulate a running nose!

Our future

Technological singularity is said to be that hypothetical point in time at which machines grow up to be so intelligent that it is no longer possible to differentiate between them and humans. Scary as it may sound, we must also remember that humans evolved until this point by forcing other species into an existential crisis- maybe it’s time to pay back!