Two years ago Markus Waibel wrote this article for the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers‘ (IEEE) Spectrum magazine. It is about an internet for robots called RoboEarth that would allow any robot with an internet connection share and reuse data. Before you could say ‘Watch out! Skynet!’ it has become reality.
A predictable response to this, said Markus, would be to compare RoboEarth’s activity to the self-aware network that tries to destroy humanity in the Terminator movies. The example he provides for the network’s utility is a hospital orderly robot that uses data gathered from the world around it to help itself and others perform tasks more effectively.
So it’s a customer service thing. Just as long as they observe Isaac Asimov‘s three rules of robotics, we should be okay.
The point is that RoboEarth has been built and demonstrated and even has its own computational cloud engine called Rapyuta (rapyuta.org) to allow connected robots to kick any heavy data crunching to cloud servers. Mind boggling.
In January 2014 RoboEarth was put through its paces in an Eindhoven University mocked-up hospital room. The aim of the system – to create a universal common brain for robots – would mean that a robot not programmed for a particular purpose would be able to find out how to do it from others. Robots could in theory complete tasks without needing massive amounts of onboard computing or battery power as they could simply power up and download instructions when needed.
Robo orderlies tooled into the Eindhoven simulation and mapped two hospital rooms using instructions from the cloud. They were different models but able to use the same data. A third robot was asked by the patient for a drink and a fourth served it using maps and data generated by the first three. All of this was done using Open Source software.
Robotic best of 2013
Looking at the IEEE’s best of robotics from 2013 creates the impression that uber-mechanics may only be a desolate metal step away. Watch robots throw breezeblocks, gallop around, look vaguely menacing and assemble IKEA furniture.
Here’s a selection of videos. Thanks IEEE:
Rock climbing robot
The Big Wheel