Scientists tell us that humans (homo sapiens) have inhabited this planet for nearly 200,000 years. With that long history comes generations of genetic coding telling us what is safe, what is dangerous, what is helpful, and so much more. Unlike most other animals with which we share this planet, we also have adapted to learning during our lifetime rather than rely upon our basic genetic instincts. “Learning” has allowed us to adapt, develop, and modify the world around us over the past 200,000 years. We have also adapted relationships to the animals and objects we have developed. Personally, I can’t imagine life without my dog or without my iPhone. What does that say about me and what does that mean for us as we enter this new world with robots emerging around us?
My earliest memory of a robot was from watching Lost In Space. The robot continuously saved the day, although he could be fooled by Dr. Smith far too often. Then Star Wars introduced “Droids”, and my world was changed. Were these droids assistants, pets, workers? All I knew was wanted one. Then came along the Terminator, and I realized for the first time that these wonderful machines may not be so good after all.
Today we see and read about robots everywhere. They aren’t to the standards Hollywood set for them, but they are key to day to day life, performing routine, monotonous, and dangerous tasks that humans once performed or never attempted because of the danger. Robots serve critical rolls in medical procedures, manufacturing, inspections, and even house cleaning. Robots are not only everywhere on earth, if you think about it, they are the sole inhabitants of another plant in our solar system!
Robots will be an integral part of our future. Over the years I have built up an expectation of robots and what they should look like, but it wasn’t until a few years ago that I met my first and saw the robot in operation. As it approached me it was a bit intimidating. Would it run into me? Are those camera’s and are they recording me? What is it thinking? This particular robot was designed to have a slightly intimidating presence serving as a security robot.
As new manufactures look towards design as primary component of their robot, they have many questions to ask. Most of these questions evolve around function, but one that seems to come up in my conversations more and more is the psychological factor that the robot brings.
Our podcast today is with Jiren Parikh, the CEO of Ghost Robotics. Their four-legged Security Robot moves, twists, and turns in a fashion I would compare to an animal. Recently at the ISC East show in New York City I had the opportunity to see the latest version of Ghost’s robot in person. Unlike the prior security focused robots I have seen, which look and operate more like the Lost In Space Robot or R2D2, this robot has the underlying structure of a Labrador Retriever. My first reaction was to walk uptown the robot and pet it, but this doesn’t seem like its intended purpose.
This particular unit was in its raw form, no coverings or design, so it left a lot to imagination. I immediately thought of one of my favorite breeds of dog, but what would my reaction have been if the coverings were designed to look like a Doberman Pinscher? Will our genetic coding help our hurt our acceptance and integration with robots, or will our ability to “learn” lead the way?
As Ghost Robotics and other robotic companies further develops their products, the exterior design will be able to provide different visual messages based upon the purpose of the robot. Taking in to account our 200,000 years of genetic coding into that design, may result in additional use cases for these robots than they are currently intended. Perhaps these robots could become more of our companions much like their canine counterparts have over the millennia.
We are entering a fascinating new world, and my guest today is helping to lead the way. If this topic interests you, please listen to the podcast here, on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts. Enjoy.
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