Rarely does a day go by without mention of a new kind of robot popping up in the science headlines. We even keep an entiretopic heading
on the subject here at Discovery News. But if the robot revolution really does come to pass, the machines aren't likely to swoop down on us in some sudden and terrifyingTerminator
scenario. Instead, they'll rise up calmly from the weird places they've been secretly infiltrating. Here we take a look at some of the unexpected places where robots have already staked out positions.
Cooki / Indiegogo
Culinary robots like theCooki robotic chef
, pictured here, are starting to make their way into both home and restaurant kitchens. The Cooki prototype displayed at this year's Consumer Electronics Show is able to prepare an entire meal from ingredients loaded into side-mounted trays.
North Carolina State University
Most public and university libraries now have self-checkout kiosks and other automated systems for checking out books. But North Carolina State'sbookBot
delivery system takes it up a notch, using robotic arms to pull items from within a giant stack of storage bins. University officials say the system requires only about 10 percent of the space of conventional shelving.
Siddharth Srivastava / YouTube
Scientists at the United Technologies Research Center in Berkeley, Calif., recently unveiled their latest A.I. triumph -- alaundry robot
that can gather, wash and fold clothes. The team has also taught the bot how to fetch a beer. When this robot turns on us, it's going to be heartbreaking.
Designed to experiment and learn from its mistakes, the robot behind IBM'sCognitive Cooking
initiative is actually an advanced A.I. from the same team that brought us Jeopardy champWatson
. Dishes invented by the bot include Belgian Bacon Pudding and the frankly alarming Austrian Chocolate Burrito. IBM's dedicated food truck can often be found at industry events, serving up the computer-designed vittles.
Not all robots are hi-tech, but when they're this big, they don't really need to be. Tourists visiting the French city of Nantes can check out -- and even ride -- the Great Elephant robot, made from 45 tons of wood and steel. The robot is one of several mechanical marvels built by resident artists in the city's former shipyards.
Royal Caribbean has installed a robotic bartender on its cruise liner
Quantum of the Seas
, which shakes and stirs martinis and other drinks using articulated robot arms. Customers place their orders from table-mounted tablets. In fact, several forward-thinking establishments have deployed robot bartenders, including TheRobots Bar and Lounge
in Illmenau, Germany.
UCSF News & Media
Pharmacies in the UCSF Medical Center in California have been using robots to fill prescriptions for several years now. Statistically, the automated system is less prone to error, administrators say, plus the bots can safely handle dangerous substances like toxic chemotherapy drugs.
Last summer, research teams from two Canadian universities unleashed hitchBOT -- a hitchhiking robot that managed to make its way across the entire country in 21 days. The bot was equipped with an LED screen "face" and gear for communicating with its handlers and posting videos online. HitchBOT is part of a social sciences project studying interactive robots and the psychology of human kindness.
Not a lot of people know this, but many stories in print and online publications are actually written by robots. The Associated Press uses "automation technology" to generate certain kinds of financial reports and sports stories that essentially consist of number-crunching and boilerplate text. A good chunk of the write-ups on Wikipedia are automated, as well. As a matter of fact, this entire slideshow was written and compiled by our new Discovery News Blog-Tron 6000. We kid, we kid.
Imagine a headless robotic dog twice your size that moves around unpredictably. That was the parking lot scene when Googlers introduced the Boston Dynamics robo-dog Spot to Cosmo the terrier.
I’d probably bark like crazy, too.
Google-owned Boston Dynamics first unveiled the electronically powered Spot early last year. The remote-controlled quadruped robot weighs 160 pounds, sports navigational sensors in its head, can haul around 40 pounds, and has the ability to get back up after being knocked on its side (video).
Although bloggers, including myself, initially thought the dog was Alex, Android's team mascot, turns out his name is Cosmo. He belongs to Android co-founder Andy Rubin, who currently heads up the tech startup incubator Playground Global. Unsurprisingly, Cosmo barks loudly and appears to be trying to herd Spot. But this thing has a “battle mode.”
In the YouTube video posted by venture capitalist Steve Jurvetson, a woman asks Spot’s operator to be careful. Off-camera we hear, “Robot takes out Andy Rubin’s dog — that would not be good.” The operator responds that he’s actually trying to keep the quadruped robot away. Great.
Fortunately Cosmo makes it out unscathed, and even kind of wins. After watching the video, Rubin tweeted ”best board meeting ever?” so he must not be too mad. Watch what Jurvetson called the “uncanny uncanine valley” interaction here:
If Spot showed up in my territory unannounced and began moving around me in unpredictable ways, I’d be pretty freaked out. This is no cuddly PARO. After all, Boston Dynamics initially designed Spot for military operations. Apparently this is the only Spot in civilian hands.
The Marine Corps tested out Spot last fall with an eye on using the robot for scouting or carrying loads. Despite its lack of autonomy, the bot ended up being quieter than its lawnmower-like rival, the LS3 robo-mule.