Robots with human-level intelligence and sentience remain the stuff of science fiction. Nonetheless, many people would be surprised to find out just how far the world’s most advanced robots have come already.
Types of Robot
When thinking in terms of humanoid robots familiar from science fiction, there are essentially two types of technology to consider.
The first of these is the physical building of robots that visually and/or mechanically imitate humans. A number of human-shaped robots have been designed that endeavour to capture natural human movement in ways such as walking and running. A number have been designed to look and act like a real human right down to facial expressions, and some aim to do both.
The second aspect to consider is artificial intelligence, which (at present) doesn’t always go hand in hand with the above machines. While human-looking and human-acting robots are essentially a mechanical challenge, this is a software challenge. Programmers work hard to create ways in which computer intelligence can interact with humans, understand language and generally come closer to becoming a human-like personality. This is an extensive process of tweaking, improving and hunting down bugs with rigorous software testing much like the service offered by http://www.bugfinders.com/.
One of the most advanced artificial intelligence programs is Watson, developed by IBM. Watson can understand natural language and has access to huge amounts of information in order to answer questions accurately. It was originally designed as an aid to doctors, as a conversational machine with a literally encyclopedic knowledge of medicine would aid diagnosis. However, IBM now hopes Watson will be used for all kinds of other purposes, including business.
It was reported not so long ago that an artificial intelligence called “Eugene Goostman” had been crowned the most advanced and become the first to beat the “Turing Test” by convincing people it was human. However, this was inaccurate in many ways. Firstly, Eugene only “beat” the Turing test because his creators manipulated the rules. For example, they claimed he was a child and a non-native English speaker, so people engaging in text conversations with him would not know whether the strange phrasing or failure to understand questions meant he was a machine. Even with this advantage, he still only fooled a third of conversation partners.
Japan’s “Actroid” robot is among the most human-looking. Modelled on an average woman, she not only looks realistic thanks to silicone skin, but also imitates the expressions and mannerisms of a human thanks to a complex system of motors. If it weren’t for the challenge – as yet unconquered – of making her lips truly follow the recorded words she speaks, she could likely pass for a real actress in simple roles. Geminoid DK, also a Japanese creation but modelled after a Danish university professor, boasts a very similar level of advancement.
One of the biggest mechanical challenges to creating humanoid robots is locomotion. It is very difficult to find a way for robots to walk and move around like we do. The leading example here is probably Honda’s Asimo. Asimo doesn’t look a human except in body shape, but he certainly walks, runs and even dances like one.