Humanoid Robots on the Mass Market

From: Franklin Wayne Poley (
Date: Mon May 22 2000 - 15:59:26 MDT

Honda alone has spent $100 m. to develop its humanoid series so I think
Japan is poised to put automobile-priced humanoid robots on the mass
market. How do you think this will change human society when we are
interacting on a daily basis with a class of humanoid mechanical slaves?
It is going to happen soon.
  Machine Psychology: (file #10)

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Mon, 22 May 2000 14:41:06 -0700 (PDT)
From: Franklin Wayne Poley <>
Subject: [BCPolitics] [Robot-for-President] The Martha Stewart Model Home
    Robot (fwd)

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Mon, 22 May 2000 13:35:16 -0700 (PDT)
From: Franklin Wayne Poley <>
Subject: [Robot-for-President] The Martha Stewart Model Home Robot

On Sun, 21 May 2000, Jose Klingbeil wrote:

> FWP wrote:
> >Where do you think evolving
> >machines will be in 10 years?
> It is most probable that these machines will have a lot of
> the characteristics of HAL 9000 in _2001: a Space Odissey_.
> Able to speak, to understand orders and of having a simple
> general conversation with humans, unbeatable at chess, etc.
> Yet nothing that I would call "thinking".

The above is a well-appreciated reply from another list which I moderate.
A Vancouver television group is interested in doing an educational tv
program on the "robotics state of the art" given the best of current
knowledge and no budget limitations. Jose's answer is the intelligent
answer I would expect if I asked most robotics/AI/computing experts
for their opinion on this matter (Jose is in that group of experts).
And that is why our ed tv program will NOT ask the experts for that
opinion. The accummulated FACTS of the program will give the answer.
   Something is very askew re opinions regarding consumer robotics. In
his 1980 book, "Robotics in Practice", Joe Engelberger, one of the
founding fathers of modern industrial robotics said that "...a household
robot may be practicable before the end of the 1980's decade." Others
opined that the 1980's would be the era of the personal robot. In his 1990
text, robotics professor Spiteri wrote that he expected the 1990's to be
the era of the personal robot. "Robotics technology is likely to become
the high technology field of the 90's much as the pc has been in the
80's." What happened to consumer robotics given these high expectations?
Joe Engelberger is still looking for $5 m. R&D for that household robot.
    So let's study "robot conversation" more closely and ask the experts
who can give us the facts about the very best which could be done
now. Don't the experts in psychology, linguistics, law etc. know the rules
of conversation? If not, can they give us exerpts from conversation for
which the rules are not known? (coding those exerpts would be taken up as
great challenge by scientists). It looks to me like it would be a huge
undertaking to write out all the rules of ordinary conversation but it can
be What would IBM for example say as to the number of
worker-years of labour to do so? Next, how many worker-years would it take
to write the code? And finally, what kind of computer would run the
   This illustrates what I mean by the robotics "state of the art" given
current knowledge and no budgetary restrictions. Would anybody like to
apply that kind of analysis to any other specific area of robotics?
   Then return to consumer robotics. I have no doubt that there is a huge
"technological lag" between what could be put on the market now and what
is on the market now. I have some ideas as to why the lag exists. But the
script I am writing for the ed tv program requires that specialists speak
for themselves. For example what do the specialists who spend much of
their lifetime careers working on a robotic hand say the best performance
of such a hand is? When Professor Moravec writes under his picture of P2,
the Honda Humanoid: "The machine has fully functional arms and camera
eyes...." what does he mean? "Fully functional" to a humanoid is not the
same as fully functional to a human.
   Further to the question of what machine arms, hands and eyes can
do, Discovery Channel this week carried an exerpt on the robotic milking
machines which are now used in half of the dairies of Europe. The machine
slides under the cow and an arm reaches out to attach the milkers to the
teats. Now that's something I'll bet even handy/crafty Martha Stewart
can't do. So I have to ask: If this nonanthropomorphic machine can do such
a thing, is there any reason a humanoid robot could not be designed to do
it as well? Further to that, if the robot can find a cow's teat and
position a suction cup on it, can it not find a carrot in the Martha
Stewart Kitchen and peel it? Could it make complete meals as well as
   What else could the "Martha Stewart Robot" do around the house? Let's
go through a detailed list of all those everyday chores and ask what the
robotics specialists could come up with to build the necessary features
into the robot. What do the experts in machine vision say about what a
robot can and cannot recognize in the house by way of "object
recognition"? We know this robot can be given more facial-emotional
expressions than Martha exhibits now on her show. And there is no doubt it
could tell better jokes and even do a little dance for us. Given all these
signs of liveliness, some people may even wonder if the robot's
'artificial life' should not be accorded some rights just as a natural
human life is accorded rights....


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