Andrew Harmon






Evolution of Robotic Technology




When I was a kid I was always fascinated by robots and toy robots like Voltron and even in movies.  My Saturday morning cartoons often included the Jetsons.  I would think that in the future this will all be the norm.  Houses in the sky, flying air cars that fold into a briefcase, moving sidewalks, house robots that clean around the house and crack jokes.  All of this from one cartoon.  As time went on and the future became the present I became sad knowing the Jetson future I had hoped to be living in was nowhere close to coming true. 

Instead my future I had hoped for has shown itself in the form of a movie.  Terminator came out and the sequel Terminator 2 also served as a precursor to future robotic technology.  In those movies you had robots that looked like humans and interacted with us and you couldn’t tell the difference.  Well, unless that robot was trying to kill you then you had a pretty good idea about the horror that lied underneath that skin suit. 

I soon found out that more people were inspired by those films and have tried to emulate those robots from the movies and we even have some other robotic technology that is being used in today’s world.  For example we don’t yet have full human skinned robots but we do have some advanced robotic technology being developed every day.  Honda’s ASIMO robot has been a huge technology breakthrough with its human like abilities and characteristics. 

ASIMO has the ability to recognize moving objects, postures, gestures, its surrounding environment, sounds and faces, which enables it to interact with humans. The robot can detect the movements of multiple objects by using visual information captured by two camera "eyes" in its head and also determine distance and direction. This feature allows ASIMO to follow a person, or face him or her when approached. The robot interprets voice commands and human hand movements, enabling it to recognize when a handshake is offered or when a person waves or points, and then respond accordingly.  ASIMO's ability to distinguish between voices and other sounds allows it to identify its companions. ASIMO is able to respond to its name and recognizes sounds associated with a falling object or collision. This allows the robot to face a person when spoken to or look towards a sound. ASIMO responds to questions by nodding or providing a verbal answer and can recognize approximately 10 different faces and address them by name.

That is just simply amazing to see just how far robotic technology has come and when you really think about it we have no clue just how far it can really go.  Sadly if you take a look at those Terminator movies you have that inert fear that a huge robotic uprising could happen, or maybe the Matrix where robots harvest humans and the ones that have escaped are driven underground.  Not really do you see lots of human robot movies where we all live happily together.   Sure there are some but mostly they are few and far between. 

Robots have also helped with production of our goods and manufacturing of cars.  They are able to be programmed and can work the assembly line where a human once stood.  The upside for the car makers is the robots don’t need a break and they can’t complain.  Now on the other hand robotic technology has improved areas of manufacturing when you need exact precision in crafting medical equipment or car parts.  The ability of these machines to be as exact and precise as they are is a huge improvement in safety and reliability.

With everyday towards the future we will see improvements in the field of robotic technology and we can even enjoy some robotic fighting like Robot Wars or a new show that wants to recreate Real Steel and have life sized robots being controlled by humans punching each other in a battle to destruction.  Maybe we will look back and see these shows and remember a time when humans controlled the robots and not the robots controlling us.  Again I think I might have seen to many movies and could be paranoid, we have nothing to worry about….right?


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