Are robots taking over the world?

Does the prospect of robots becoming more and more a part of our everyday lives excite or terrify you? Whichever side you come down on, the time to prepare for what’s next with upcoming scientific advances, from personal robots to even robotic humans, is now.

Watson, one of many robots, faces its human rivals in a practice round. (Credit: Jeopardy / IBM)

Watson, one of many robots, faces its human rivals in a practice round. (Credit: Jeopardy / IBM)

Scientists have a range of exciting innovations coming down the pike, starting with robotic prosthetics and other medically based robots that will improve and even prolong our lives.

Becoming robotic humans

For many, the route to being excited about scientific advances in the field of robotics lies in the medical “miracles” that may result.  In “Hail cyborgs! The line between robots and humans is blurring” on June 6, 2014, for computerworld.com, Sharon Gaudin discussed the potential. She wrote that it may soon be hard to tell the difference between humans and robots as people increasingly use “robotic prosthetics that work seamlessly with a human’s muscles, with tiny robots that swim in our blood streams and fix medical problems and nano-scale robots implanted in our brains.”

Worried about robotic humans replacing the real thing, à la “Robocop”? Gaudin tries to dispel those concerns: robotic exoskeletons that could help people with paralysis, as well as possibly protect soldiers in battle, are some of the many benefits of what’s next with these types of scientific advances.

Robotics and business

But the applications involving the next level of robotic development have implications that go beyond helping people repair their bodies. The potential in business has still not been fully realized. Robert Plant discussed what’s next in his June 6, 2014, post for The Wall Street Journal blog, “How New Robots Are Smarter Than Ever.”

Plant shares that the robots we have been using in factories are impressive, no doubt, “but just like the human labor they replaced, they themselves are being replaced by more intelligent, agile and adaptive robotic systems.” These more adaptive robotic systems will be able to take over even the service industry.

A prime example is Amazon’s use of Kiva, a robotics system, to move products around their warehouses. Future plans may connect the automated warehouses with flying drones that deliver the package to our homes, completely eliminating humans from the process. Want more? Amazon also has a “dash” magic wand hand-held bar code scanner that will use artificial intelligence to study your habits, and even what is in your fridge, to create and ship products to you before you even have to order them.

Personal robots are coming

Already thinking of that perfect Christmas gift even though the holiday is still months away? Well soon you might be able to give your friend or loved one a personal robot. “SoftBank to start selling personal robots next year” by Teppei Kasai and Yoshiyasu Shida for Reuters.com on June 5, 2014, discussed how “Japan’s SoftBank Corp said on Thursday it will start selling human-like robots for personal use by February,” of 2015.

SoftBank is marketing the personal robots as among scientific advances that can assist Japan with its aging population, “serving as baby-sitters, nurses, emergency medical workers or even party companions.” The robot prototype is named Pepper and is expected to cost $1,900. What will truly set the personal robot apart, according to SoftBank, is that they will be able to learn and express emotions.

Are the scientific advances in personal robots and even robotic humans something to applaud or fear? The first wave of robots that entered our lives in the 1960s and 1970s came with an assurance to people that the devices would free humans for more innovation. Unfortunately that did not happen. Instead humans lost many jobs to the machines. The advocates of the latest level of automation are telling people the same message. Only time will tell if that comes true this time around.

So are you excited about robots playing a bigger role in our lives? Or do you fear that robots will take over? Let us know in the comments.

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