Over the past decade, it has become conventional wisdom that dramatic advances in both artificial intelligence and robotics will work their way into society as we know it.
As consumers, we already recognize the growing shift towards smart thermostats, smart security systems, and smart cars, in an emerging category known as the Internet of Things, or IoT.
It’s easy to see why household intelligence advancements like these are inherently useful for the modern day human. So useful, in fact, that we are left to wonder why so anyone might be bothered with the advancement of physical robotics when software seems to really do it all.
With artificial intelligence on IoT on the rise, is there really a market for physical robotics any more? Let’s take a closer look at how we use these two technologies today.
The Difference Between Artificial Intelligence and Robotics
Is AI part of robotics? Is robotics part of AI? What exactly is the difference between these two terms?
You’ve probably seen the two used interchangeably in a variety of settings, adding to the widespread confusion. We can blame pop culture for this one.
Artificial intelligence and robotics serve two very different purposes. However, it is not uncommon for people to get them confused. This may be because the overlap between them that gets the vast amount of the media’s attention: Artificially Intelligent Robots.
Let’s set the record straight.
AI, or artificial intelligence, is a branch of computer science. This branch involves the development of software programs to complete specific tasks that would otherwise depend on human intelligence. The main goal of AI algorithms is to tackle logical reasoning, language understanding, problem-solving, perception, and learning.
AI is used all around us in our modern world. For example, AI algorithms are used in SatNav route finders, Amazon’s recommendation engine, and Google Searches.
Most of the AI programs used today do not control robots. And when AI is used in robotic technology, AI algorithms are only a piece of a larger robotic system.
To put it simply, robotics is the branch of technology that handles robots. Robots are known as programmable machines. These machines carry out certain actions autonomously and semi-autonomously.
We can typically classify a technology as a robot if it meets these 3 components:
- Robots have the ability to interact with the world around them via actuators and sensors.
- Robots are programmable.
- Robots perform semi-autonomous and autonomous actions.
It is not unusual to hear experts argue over just what constitutes a “robot”. Some people believe that robots must be able to “think” for itself and make decisions.
However, requiring that a robot “thinks” suggest that it holds some level of artificial intelligence. While robots can be implemented with AI technology, AI alone is not grounds for a robotic classification.
Artificially Intelligent Robots
Robots that are artificially intelligent bridge the gap between AI and robotics. AI software and programs control these robots.
Most robots today are not artificially intelligent. Until recently, industrially designed robots could only carry out a series of repetitive movements based on programming. As mentioned previously, repetitive motions do not require the use of artificial intelligence.
Therefore, robots without intelligence are rather limited in functionality. To allow a robot to perform tasks that are more complex AI algorithms are required.
However, AI robots are not completely unheard of.
Sophia, the artificially intelligent robot designed by Hanson Robotics, stunned the world this past year (2017) and it wasn’t just in regards to her ability to converse and speak her mind. The fact that she was given a national citizenship had the world wondering if this type of technology is really necessary and how it might affect our future.
Is it possible that robots will change the way that we live? It’s an interesting question to ask when robots are already shaping the way that we live today. From the first time that the world saw a toaster pop up by itself, we’ve accepted the fact that robots can be trusted to perform certain actions that make our lives easier.
Today robots run our cars, play our music, cook our food, and record our shows. Many of us simply don’t realize it because they don’t have a face that we can talk to.
Technically speaking, robots are simply automatic motorized tools that are programmed to perform specific physical actions. The key here is physical because AI intelligence by itself does not concern itself with physical actions.
While flashy AI robots like Sophia can be a little unnerving, to say the least, it’s more about the technology behind her and how it can be applied to change our future for the better. We’re not just talking entertainment, think about real physical labor in dangerous places, elderly care, and even a telepresence in tourism, shopping, and assistance.
Imagine sitting at home on your computer and walking a video game character through a market or mall, except it’s not a game, it’s a personal robot shopping for you in London while you sit comfortably in New York. Imagine a robot’s ability to assist at a disaster site, clean up wreckage from a highway in just seconds, and provide relief assistance to the elderly and less-abled.
In today’s day in age, modern technology is designed to bring the world to you through the Internet, our televisions and phones, but if this trend continues, robots will soon have the ability to bring you to the world – all at a speed of thought.
So do we need physical robots when we have AI on IoT technology?
The answer is yes. While the two has existed separately for some time now, we can only watch and wait to see just what robotics, AI, and IoT technology will shape the way that we approach problems, care for others, and live our daily life.