Tag Archives: robotics

Should we fear the rise of Artificial Intelligence?

Aren’t humans the smartest creatures on earth, or are we getting replaced by AI-powered machines? The trepidation of artificial intelligence taking over the world is worrying many people, and some numbers from a recent survey are adding fuel to the fire. AI will outperform humans in just 45 years, that’s the core finding of a recent survey that I read today. 352 machine learning experts were asked to predict the future of AI, and here is what they had to say:

According to the survey, conducted by University of Oxford and Yale University, most of the current jobs are expected to get automated in the next 100 years. From transportation to science, heath, and finance, every aspect of our life will get significantly transformed and reshaped by AI. But when it comes to chances of AI performing all human tasks better than us, the possibility is 50 percent. Will AI create catastrophic outcomes that lead to human extinction? Will humans succumb to machines? There is a miniscule 5% chance, says the survey.

As per the report, AI will outperform humans in many tasks like driving trucks (by 2027), translating languages (by 2024), and writing high school essays (by 2026, and carrying out surgeries (2053). Can robots be trained to drive or perform surgeries? Perhaps yes, but how can they think and write like humans and publish books by 2049 as they survey says? I doubt. That said, artificial intelligence tools can enhance proofreading, but writing from scratch and writing in an interesting and effective manner is something only humans can do.

Everywhere you go; people are talking about automation replacing humans. Admittedly, it is frightening, especially if you have any technique based jobs that AI robots and tools can easily handle.

In short, AI will benefit us in many ways, and pose many challenges as well. Should we fear or hope about the future of AI? I think it should be a mix of both.

AI will definitely eliminate some jobs, but will create new careers as well. AI can revolutionize several areas like security, agriculture, healthcare, and environment. But AI technology cannot match up to the kind of cognitive thought process that humans possess. In other words, AI can never infuse the artistry and unique human abilities to cater to specific or changing needs, or, no AI-powered human-like robot can exist with all versatilities that we possess.

We, humans, can understand and use concepts in permeable ways, tailor an accepted norms to suit a specific need, try related concepts, or brainstorm and find innovative ways and ideas. No AI-powered robots or machines can do all these perfectly.

Can a machine come up with ideas? It can give valuable insights that trigger ideas, but it’s up to us to translate the insights and connect the dots to create a perfect idea. Simply put, we humans will surely have a leg up on AI.

That said, no matter what the impact will be and however fast it will happen, there’s no denying that AI-powered robotics workforces will soon become a reality. But, can they completely surpass humans? I don’t think so.

The salad-making robot

When it comes to making salads, the kind of ingredients and toppings used are very important. Or else, a healthy meal might have more calories than a fattening hamburger. What if you can easily measure the amount of calories in the each salad that you choose to have? Does it sound near-to-impossible? Not anymore! A California-based company has developed a food robot that dispenses the quantities of ingredients, and offers details on the precise amount of calories used in each salad. It’s named Sally. In about 60 seconds, the robot can make more than 1000 different types of ready-to-eat salads. Isn’t that awesome? The green-and-brown robot is the brain child of Chowbotics Inc., one among the major companies in the potential million dollar market of food robots.

Why Sally? It’s possibly the “next generation of salad restaurant”, and can make tasty salads faster than humans. Adding more advantage is the feature that helps count the calories in each salad. Moreover, the level of hygiene is matchless when a machine prepares a salad, rather than getting it done by multiple people.

Does that mean the robot doesn’t need any human help? Absolutely not! Here is the human touch in Sally – The food robot doesn’t do all the chores right from start to finish. A human has to slice and fill up the ingredients into the canisters. The ingredients are stored in refrigerated compartments. You can simply place a bowl in the salad dispensing area, and later customize the order from the given menu. Based on calorie count, you can add or remove toppings as required. Once the selection is done, Sally will soon start preparing the salad.

The salad robot comes in compact size, weighs close to 350 pounds, and hardly occupies the same amount of space as that of a small dorm room refrigerator. It uses 21 different ingredients such as kale, romaine, Parmesan, and cherry tomatoes to make appetizing salads in less than a minute, while you can watch the entire process. In its current avatar, Sally is ideal for business settings and not for home kitchens. But after going “on a diet” quite soon, home users too might get a concise version of this remarkable salad making robot.

Will Sally improve its culinary skills? Will it be able to cook some scrumptious ethnic foodstuffs? May be in its next incarnation, if all goes well!

Flippy – The burger-flipping robot

Robots have reached the world of fast-food as well, thanks to Miso Robotics, an offshoot of CaliBurger, a West Coast burger chain. They have made a burger-flipping robot named Flippy. Why Flippy? Be it working around grill and fryer or doing the preparation works like chopping onions, food service robots can do the chores way more quickly and perfectly than humans.

What makes Flippy standout? As we all know, flipping burgers is not an easy job. There are many common hazards associated with the job, such as slips, trips, cuts, and burns. With increasing demand for burgers, humans need a reliable helping hand to cook more burgers quickly, and serve the increasing number of burger lovers across the world in a time bound manner. This is where Flippy enters. The robotic kitchen assistant works wonders when it comes to burger-making. It can detect, flip, and grill tasty burger patties.

Flippy looks like a small wheeled cart with a six-axis robotic arm. The robot can be installed either in front of or next to any grill or fryer. It uses thermal and 3D sensors as well as advanced cameras to get clear understanding about the environment around. Flippy leverages artificial intelligence technologies to solve some of the biggest pain points that burger chefs often deal with. A.I. enables Flippy to be trainable and adaptable. It might soon learn and cook new foods based on seasonal menu changes.

Fast, safe, and makes no mistakes – Flippy outsmarts humans with these three advantages. It can grab unwrapped burger patties, place them on hot grills, keep track of temperature and cooking time, and alert cooks when to add toppings or cheese. However, Flippy can just plate burger and cannot wrap them or add finishing touches.

Wondering if several burger chefs are going to lose their jobs with the arrival of Flippy? No, they won’t. Flippy cannot fully displace humans. Though it can handle many repetitive tasks simultaneously and perfectly, it cannot completely replace human touch. That said, chefs of some top restaurants might soon find this co-worker in their kitchens.

Ethics, morals, safety, and robots

“A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.” Issac Asimov devised this rule 70 years back. But experts like Stephen Hawking warn that “the development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race”. Can AI embedded ultra-intelligent robots create a “Terminator-style wasteland”? The preliminary forms of AI have been immensely useful by far. But many scientists believe that creations like humanoids, that surpass humans, can be dangerous and might trigger annihilation of humanity.


“The machines rose from the ashes of the nuclear fire. Their war to exterminate mankind had raged on for decades. But the final battle will not be fought in the future. It would be fought in our present…tonight.” Should we fear the rising, or is it just a misconception that’s blocking the transformative impact of AI and advanced robotics? Can we teach robots to behave safely and ethically? If robots can make decisions on their own, who will ensure that they are right and harmless?

It’s a near to impossible mission says some bygone happenings. Here’s an example – It took less than 24 hours for Twitteratis to teach Tay, an artificial intelligence chatterbot, how to foul-mouth and be a racist. Tay was designed to engage and entertain people. The more you chat with Tay the smarter she gets, so the experience can be more personalized for you.” explained Microsoft. But Tay soon started spouting off racist and misogynic epithets in response to question that that carried the same sentiments. It wasn’t coded to be a racist or misogynist. But Tay learned from those it interacts with.

However, many scientists are betting big on the idea of AI embedded robots with advanced technologies. From Terminator to Blade Runner and Ex Machina, many sci-fi movies have portrayed humanoids that are indistinguishable from real humans. With the advent of human-like robots in real life, we are heading towards a future where we will live side by side with robots, whether we like it or not. By far, the benefits have outnumbered the hazards, the reason why we can remain optimistic about a future amid humanoids.

Why should be build humanoids like Nao, Pepper, RoboKind Zeno? Their capabilities are incredible, and the benefits are many. Robots like Kasper have been helping children with autism in learning basic human communication skills. Robear, the robot bear that can care for the elderly Sweetie, the virtual girl, helped track down pedophiles. Productivity, safety, and savings are the three main advantages of using humanoids at workplaces. It can handle dangerous works, defuse bombs, patrol large areas, and even do the duty of a security guard. Several organizations are exploring the idea of using humanoids to accomplish tasks in more effective and timebound manner.

That said, we cannot forget the incident where a robot “killed a contractor at one of Volkswagen’s production plants”. Here is what Sophia, the latest humanoid, declared during a conversation. In a CNBC interview, David Hanson asked her- “Do you want to destroy humans? Please say ‘no.’” “Sophia” But here is how she responded – “OK, I will destroy humans.”

Good and bad, right and wrong, safe and unsafe – we learn the difference between them long before we learn to speak. The power of moral and evaluative judgment is a strong factor that decides our success in life. If robots will soon surpass humans in intelligence, it should have the ability to identify what’s right and what’s wrong, what’s safe and what’s unsafe. But how can we impart ethics and moral values to robots? Can we create robots with ethical abilities? How can we program them to behave safely? This is a colossal challenge. Because, it’s not easy to transform human decision making and reasoning powers into numerical values that robots can understand.

Being NAO

Can you do the Gangnam style dance for an hour? How good and patient are you at answering the same questions over and over again? No matter how confident you are about your dancing talent, social and behavioral skills, or patience, NAO can be your toughest competitor. Here is the reason – intelligence, integrity, dedication, hard work, and the right temperament, neither you nor I have them all together in balanced proportions. In a stark contrast, NAO, the Watson-powered smart humanoid, has all these and many more qualities that we cannot stop revering.  NAO is the first robot that can “develop and display emotions”. When sad, it hunches its shoulders and looks down, but raises its arms for a hug when happy. When scared, NAO cowers and stays in the same position for some time.

IBM’s Watson-powered NAO, a highly-advanced AI-powered robot, is a trailblazing invention and a pivotal shift in human-machine interaction. IBM Watson first wowed the tech-world by beating two of Jeopardy’s best champions in 2011. It has come a long way since the epic triumph.

NAO was first developed by Aldebaran Robotics, a French robotics company in Paris. IBM’s Watson-enabled NAO robot is a highly advanced and promising merge of cognitive capabilities and robotics. It’s less than two feet tall and looks like a one year old kid. But NAO can walk on two legs, speak, dance, do push-ups, recognize people, and even read boarding passes. Doesn’t that make it a rock star robot? It is indeed one, and not yet another ordinary robot that you might have seen or read about. A interactive, multilingual, and user-friendly humanoid robot, NAO can surprise you beyond belief with the flawlessness with which it recognizes human speech patterns.  Dancing has never been the forte of any robot or humanoid, but NAO can really get down and boogie, and look great doing it.  Does that mean NAO has a super impressive brain like yours and mine? Perhaps that’s a long-term goal that IBM team might be working on currently.

Robots have been serving us in many industries. What makes NAO different from the rest is the brilliant use of cutting-edge APIs, including Dialog, Speech to Text, Text to Speech, Text to Speech, and Natural Language Classifier.

Those who are lucky to visit some of the top Hilton hotels in the world can find Connie, a NAO robot, hard at work at the front desk, interacting with every guest using advanced natural language processing. It shares information, offer personalized recommendations, entertains visitors, helping them find rooms, and even translating enquires for the staff thus giving an impressive feast in robotics, AI, and cognitive computing. Moreover, it can store questions and answers for further reference. If you are wondering what’s unique about Connie, the smart humanoid can literally answer everything that you want to know about Hilton’s services. It can learn from interactions, remember faces, respond based on facial expressions or body language, and develop a distinct personality of its own using highly advanced IBM software for speech recognition.  In other words, unlike robotic velociraptor toys used in Henn-na Hotel, one can have a natural conversation with Connie, though you must ask questions to elicit responses.

Will such humanoids replace humans and take our jobs sooner or later? This though on the growing risks of mechanization and rise in unemployment might have crossed your mind at least once. Job-seekers across the world face some serious threats from AI-powered automatons that are taking over jobs traditionally done by humans.  Some jobs might disappear, but overall future is not as bad as many believe. According to experts, AI and automation can spur the growth of many new job categories with thousands of potential opportunities, wherein humans will work side-by-side with humanoids like NAO.

Banks and hotels with NAO robots have a relatable reason to use the AI-enhanced humanoids. Connie at the Hilton McLean reduces nearly 150 different routine questions that front-desk staffers get each day. It helps them check in guests faster, avoids long queue at front-desk, enhances operational efficiency, along with providing a little fun for each guest.

NAO is a busy bee these days. It helps researches in hospitals, conducts comedy routines, grooms animals, and even goes to school to help children with autism. Aldebaran Robotics’ ASK NAO (Autism Solution for Kids) helps autistic children improve their social interactions, verbal and non-verbal communication, emotional intelligence, and even basic academic skills.

Robotics, nanotechnology, AI, and the whole host of steadily advancing technologies are never a threat to humans. None of us live with the presumption that our jobs are super-secure, nor do we ever get cozy or lackadaisical at work.  So why carry an irrational fear or distrust about emerging technologies? Every new technology takes us a step-forward and improves our lives in several ways. There could be short term job losses, but never a doomsday situation.  Machines cannot replace humans in tasks that need creativity, problem solving and flexibility. Shouldn’t close-minded luddites stop crying wolf all the time and start looking at the better side technological advancements like AI? Shouldn’t we have more NAOs and Peppers (a humanoid with the ability to read emotions)?

Human fascination with robots that look like humans is not new. Remember Vicki Lawson from Small Wonder? The TV show came out in 1985 and is ranked as an all-time hit for fascinating its audience with the idea of a human-like robot. We are now getting closer to turning such science fictions into reality.

That’s exciting, right?