February 27, 2016

YOUR NEXT CAR WILL BE A VOLTRON:

WHAT IS A ROBOT? (SCOTT DADICH, 02.24.16., Wired)

ASK ANDY RUBIN, father of Android, that question and he holds up the middle three fingers of his left hand. "First," he says, grabbing his index finger, "a robot must sense." Next finger: "It must compute." Ring finger: "Then, it must actuate."

On first blush, that's a bit amorphous. It's a broad definition, but it's not wrong. A traffic signal, for example, could be said to be a robot. Consider the last time you rolled up to a red light. The metal of your car tripped a magnetic detector embedded in the asphalt, which sent a signal (hey--car here!) to a processor. That data fed into an algorithm that, given a bunch of other variables, triggered a state change in the signal: red to green. Depending on the city you live in, this is most likely a pretty simple, decades-old industrial bot. From this perspective, not much separates the traffic light from a Roomba or a robot arm on an assembly line. None of these devices are "smart," marketing claims notwithstanding. They just follow rules.

But multiply and amplify that kind of computation--in fact, move beyond it with deep learning and networks that think like brains--and you get something far removed from industrial step-and-repeat machines. They don't just follow rules; they gather data about their environment, understand it, and react. In fact, the first robot with artificial intelligence that you or I are likely to own may very well be a car that knows how to drive itself.

Posted by at February 27, 2016 9:00 AM

  

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