The bulk of robots in use across the world today are Industrial Robots. They are automated machines programmed to perform repetitive tasks, without high levels of intelligence or cognition. Moreover, they look nothing like the humanoid robots we see on movies because they don’t have to. There was no economic incentive in creating robot workers that look like humans. Besides, the technology was not advanced enough either.
That is no longer the case. With rapid strides in the fields of AI and robotics, advanced robots that can interact autonomously with humans is fast becoming a reality. In robotics engineering, robots like Kengoro and ATLAS show massive progress in replicating life-like movement. Sophia and Pepper are two popular examples of companion robot companions with the ability to interact with humans. When unveiled in 2015, Sophia became a major hit, was featured on talk shows, feted by the UN, and even received a citizenship. Pepper became one of the first robots to be employed in a bank in the US.
But more than physical robots, it is AI software that is bringing in the winds of change in our lives at the moment. These robots are a clear indication of how far we have come, and more importantly, how much farther we have to go into the field of AI and Cognitive Robotics. Though we have made giant strides in the recent past in areas like neural networks and deep learning, we are still a long way away from creating advanced Artificial General Intelligence, or “true AI”.
Truth be told, in terms of AI levels, robots like Sophia and Pepper are little more than advanced chat bots, albeit with sophisticated cognitive robot bodies. Creating more Advanced AI will require more research and more powerful computers. So depending on how fast we can master Quantum Computing, it might take us anywhere from a few decades to a century or more to create advanced androids as they show in Hollywood movies.
Nevertheless, even in its current limited form, AI is everywhere in our digital lives. It offers companionship and guidance in the form of Virtual Assistants like Siri and Alexa. It curates and delivers content to our social media accounts and runs our smart homes. Companies use it to create value out of vast swathes of data. We are in the early stages of AI-driven cars and delivery drones.
The next step would be to upgrade the capabilities of AI like Alexa and Siri and actually putting them inside a humanoid robot chassis. With advanced cognitive function, these robots could perform a wide range of activities in our lives. They could serve as personal assistants, take care of chores, and even provide companionship to the elderly and kids. The potential is almost limitless.