As Roboy Hits Zurich, Robotic Technology Takes Center Stage
Forget the Dow’s record high… or the “politics as usual” in Washington… or speculation over the next Pope.
Consider this instead: Do robots suffer from stage fright?
No… I haven’t lost my mind (yet).
I ask because somewhere in Zurich right now, “Roboy” is preparing for his big moment at the Robots on Tour event this weekend.
And Roboy isn’t just another metal-hearted robot, either.
Created by Rolf Pfeifer and his team at the University of Zurich’s Artificial Intelligence Lab, Roboy is a “humanoid” robot that’s about as close as current technology can get us to, well… us!
That’s because Roboy’s design and movement is modeled after humans through what Pfeifer calls “tendon-driven technology.”
As such, Roboy has about 70 “muscles” that connect the tendons. He can walk like a human, recognize human faces, wave and shake hands, and speak some words. According to the BBC, he’s even learning to ride a tricycle.
We first brought you this story a few weeks ago when the Swiss team initially showcased their invention. But Roboy is now about to play to a bigger audience at the event.
So what’s the goal here?
Pfeifer says he wants Roboy to be “a messenger of a new generation of robots that will interact with humans in a friendly way.”
Indeed, the event highlights the increasing role that robots are beginning to play in our lives.
The question is: Do we want them?
He’s Cool… But His Bedside Manner is a Little “Robotic”
While technology is allowing us to make tremendous advances in many areas, the thought of robots taking over the world and crushing the human race is the stuff of science fiction and paranoid delusional nightmares.
In other words, there can be a fine line between cool and creepy.
But as Pfeifer notes, he wants robots to work with humans, not instead of them, in both the home and industry.
The Food & Drug Administration seems to agree with the principle.
It recently approved the RP-VITA Remote Presence Robot – the first autonomous robot to gain clearance for use in hospitals.
The innovation comes from Massachusetts-based small-cap firm, iRobot Corp. (IRBT) – a leader in the robotics industry – and InTouch Health.
Now, I get that some folks would be a bit skeptical about a robot buzzing around their local hospital like something out of The Jetsons.
But this is no gimmick.
Along the lines of helping humans, rather than replacing them, it’s designed to aid both patients and doctors through telemedicine in fields like cardiology, neurology, plus pre-natal and psychological care.
The RP-VITA robot is fully mobile. Using high-tech navigational sensors, it can move freely around areas without bashing into things, or mowing down people on crutches.
The robot is fitted with an iPad, so once it reaches patients, doctors are able to connect with them remotely. Then InTouch’s electronic health solutions and recordkeeping kick in, so the doctor has the patient’s full background and can take appropriate action. They’re also able to communicate with other hospital stuff via the robot.
Quoted on Kurzweil Accelerating Intelligence, iRobot CEO, Colin Angle, calls the FDA’s approval of RP-VITA a “significant technological milestone for the robotics and healthcare industries. Having crossed this technology threshold, the potential for self-navigating robots in other markets, and for new applications, is virtually limitless.”
If only his bedside manner wasn’t so stiff.
We’ll be keeping tabs on developments in the robotics industry and looking at some of the other applications and “limitless potential” that Angle mentioned.
Ahead of the tape,