4 April 2011 by James Hayes
An iCub is of course a humanoid robot for research into human cognition and AI, designed by a consortium of European universities, and fully open-source, with the hardware design, software and documentation released under the GPL license. That all notwithstanding, robots of all varieties are a big part of what Hannover Messe has to offer, with a special area - Mobile Robots and Autonomous Systems (Hall 15) - devoted to showcasing the technology's progress. One stand drawing much attention was BlueBotics: 'Mobile robots at your service' is the Swiss company's motto, and there to help was Gilberto, the entertainment robot who 'speaks' four languages, and also interacts with a touchscreen, as well as being able to provide Web information.
Useful as he may be Gilberto doesn't look likely to entirely replace a fully-functional human playmate, but his BlueBotics relative Atom just might. Designed for home assistance', home security, and tour guide, it can also double as a portable floor lamp, and even an occasional table; BuzzSore wouldn't be surprised to see it harnessed to a Hoover and pressed into service as an autonomous domestic help. But the good burghers of Hannover at least are unconcerned that such cutting-edge technology could be hedging humans' employment prospects. "Gnädige Frau, sorgt es sich sie, dass roboter ihren job nehmen können?" I asked a domestic cleaner I got chatting to at the Stadtbahn stop.
No, she replied, shaking her head: "I verstehen nicht die gesellschaftlichen auswirkungen solcher auftauchenden technologie" (I understand not the societal impacts of such emerging technology).
I tried to explain at length that this area of study itself was an emerging discipline, and that in a very real sense society was empowering itself to challenge technological impositions; unfortunately, while doing I so distracted her that she missed her homeward train. "Ich bin spät, mein husband' erhalten; s-Abendessen!" (Now I will be late getting my husband's dinner), she exclaimed. Just then my own train arrived, and I got on; she glowered at me through the glass as it pulled away from the station.
Edited: 06 April 2011 at 01:22 PM by James Hayes
Posted By: James Hayes @ 04 April 2011 03:03 PM General
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