With robots popping up everywhere on the big and small screens these days (see Robot & Frank, or the upcoming Extant TV series, to name just a couple), one could assume innovators are cocking an ear and working hard to blur the line between sci-fi and real life. They wouldn’t be too far off in that guess, as, especially when it comes to gaming and household management, the envelope is already being pushed and prodded at to within an inch of its life!
Robotic fun & games
Applied artificial intelligence, arguably one of the most talked-about and long-awaited revolutions this side of the millennium, is gearing up for a pretty exciting debut – the prospects in the gaming world have already started being rolled out. Gaming buffs’ hearts skipped a beat at the Worldwide Developers Conference, at the sight of the new path that iOS developers are charting for them through a long over-due reinvention of slot cars, which you can read more about all over the Internet.
If you found the introduction of the AnkiDrive cars appealed to the little (virtual) motorist inside, chances are you’ll also be quite taken with Kuratas. The wheel-equipped diesel-powered 13 feet tall robot from Japanese artist Kogoro Kurata isn’t as freewheeling as the Transformers – it’s meant to be driven remotely, through a software program called V-Sido, while its pilot stands to a side, smartphone in hand, delivering his/her commands!
Another fun use of robotic tech saw pint-sized soccer players made up of plastic and wiring take to the field at the RoboCup in the Netherlands, back in June. Cast in the guise of actual soccer teams, these pigskin-chasing robots are well on their way to perfecting their game to the point of playing opposite a real-life flesh-and-bones team – a match made in heaven that the bots’ creators hope might come about by 2050.
Robotic little helpers
Though it’s still early days for the business of bringing robotics to Joe Gamer’s experience, its restless fans should take heart from the fact that the technology of applied robotics is already being used elsewhere: we’ve all heard about military drones, and NASA’s robotic missions and rovers, for instance. And the leave-no-stone-unturned ethos is coming up with new ideas of marrying robots with everyday life: cue robotic pets and caretakers and the list goes on!
There are far more examples of robots built to give us a helping hand than you’d imagine, and that’s only counting the ones already on the market – those which sweep our floors, vacuum our house, cut our grass and even those in charge of cleaning the cat’s litter box. Once you widen the search to robots that are yet to be available for purchase by the average consumer, the growing number of prototypes is only outdone by their ever-growing ambitions.
Toyota’s Human Support Robot (HSR) might become the norm as far as helping people with disabilities get by on a daily basis, while Rex, the Robotic Exoskeleton from Rex Bionics, will make all the difference in the world for paralytics, when the testing of its thought-controlled system is completed.
But, of course, humanoid robots are all the rage. With the NAO robot from Aldebaran Robotics being successfully programmed to dance, interact with autistic children and even do stand-up, consumers are eager to welcome a model into their homes. And, with the first ever talking humanoid robot being launched into space by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency at the beginning of August, a domestic launch into our living room space is sure to follow soon.