Scientists and engineers have spent decades researching ways to develop robots. They have come a long way since the days when a robot could perform only one simple function. Now, robots can complete a range of sophisticated functions with much smoother movements and fewer problems. However, the researchers believe there is still a long way to go and that it is possible to achieve so much more in the world of robotic science and engineering.
One of the main aims is to make robots as close to humans as possible. Researchers are continually looking for ways to make robots appear more life-like and are even attempting to give robots attributes and personality traits that are typically associated with humans. Now, scientists believe they have taken one step closer to achieving this.
The most recent development involved the work of researchers at Columbia University. They claim to have built a robot arm that is capable of construction a self-image. The researchers believe that this has taken them closer to developing a robot that possesses self-awareness.
Hod Lipson, who is a professor of mechanical engineering at the university, is one of the people who worked on the robot arm. He compared the robot arm to a newborn baby as they also must learn self-awareness. He admits that their robot’s level of self-awareness is crude in comparison to the self-awareness of humans, but the team still believe that their progress is a great achievement.
A new journal titled ‘Science Robotics’ describes how the robot arm can learn to operate using experimentation. It does not need programming about its own construction, geometry, or physics to achieve this. Instead, it goes through a period of intensive computing, in which it flails around.
The algorithm of the arm then begins to make sense of its surroundings in a process of self-discovery. Following this process, the robot arm can perform complex tasks. Some of these include writing text and repairing itself.
This is an impressive step towards robots having self-awareness and it is a step that many people believed was not achievable. Few could imagine that scientists and engineers could ever create robots with abilities so close to humans. In fact, many people believed it was little more than science-fiction.
Although the work of the team from Columbia University is a huge achievement, they are the first to acknowledge that there is still a long way to go. While the arm can write text, it is not even close to independently writing a poem.
Lipson also claims that the development of the robot arm is not just an achievement in terms of robotic engineering, but that it can also help to develop a greater understanding of humans. He believes that there is the potential to use the robotic arm to learn more about how humans conceive themselves. In turn, having a greater understanding of humans could lead to the creation of robots that can understand themselves in the same way as humans.
The nature of self-awareness is something else that Lipson has talked about in relation to his team’s work. He says that the nature of self-awareness is a topic that has interested professionals from many fields, including cognitive scientists, psychologists, and philosophers.
Despite centuries of research into this subject, there has previously been relatively little progress. It is only now that scientists are beginning to gain a better understanding. However, Lipson says that scientists still do not have a full understanding and they attempt to cloak their lack of understanding. One way in which they do this is to use subjective terms.
Research with robots is possibly what has pushed scientists to expand their understanding. They could no longer apply their vague notions if they wanted to progress in this field. Instead, they are now forced to use concrete mechanisms and algorithms.
Overall, this research has made great leaps in several areas, both in relation to robotic engineering development and in understanding human behaviors and abilities. Therefore, this is significant research that has the potential to impact on many other studies in the future. Although it may seem like a small achievement, it is one of the greatest achievements in robotic science and engineering in recent years.