Friday, September 4, 2009

How robots will invade our lives


In this prophetic talk from 2003, roboticist Rodney Brooks talks about how robots are going to
work their way into our lives -- starting with toys and moving into household chores ... and beyond.

Who is Rodney Brooks?

MIT professor Rodney Brooks studies and engineers robot intelligence, looking for the holy grail
of robotics: the AGI, or artificial general intelligence. For decades, we've been building robots to
do highly specific tasks -- welding, riveting, delivering interoffice mail -- but what we all want,
really, is a robot that can figure things out on their own, the way we humans do. (And being able
to move around independently would be handy too.)

Brooks realized that a top-down approach -- just building the biggest brain possible and teaching
it everything we could think of -- would never work. What would work is a robot who learns like
we do, by trial-and-error, and with many separate parts that learn separate jobs.The thesis of
his work is captured in a paper that went on to become the title of the great Errol Morris
documentary on Brooks and three others: Fast, Cheap and Out of Control.

A founder of iRobot, makers of the Roomba vacuum, Brooks recently left that company to start a
new firm, Heartland Robotics. Heartland's mission is to apply advanced robotic intelligence to
manufacturing and physical labor. At MIT, Brooks is affiliated with CSAIL, MIT's Computers
Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.


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