Visit Singularity Hub for the latest from the frontiers of manufacturing and technology as we bring you coverage of Singularity University's Exponential Manufacturing conference. If you've been staying on top of artificial intelligence news lately, you may know that the games of chess and Go were two of the grand challenges for AI. But do you know what the equivalent is for robotics? Just think about how the game requires razor sharp perception and movement, a tall order for a machine. As entertaining as human vs. robot games can be, what they actually demonstrate is much more important.
Robots might one day trace the origin of their consciousness to recent experiments aimed at instilling them with the ability to reflect on their own thinking. Although granting machines self-awareness might seem more like the stuff of science fiction than science, there are solid practical reasons for doing so, explains roboticist Hod Lipson at Cornell University's Computational Synthesis Laboratory. "The greatest challenge for robots today is figuring out how to adapt to new situations," he says. "There are millions of robots out there, mostly in factories, and if everything is in the right place at the right time for them, they are superhuman in their precision, in their power, in their speed, in their ability to work repetitively 24/7 in hazardous environments--but if a bolt falls out of place, game over." This lack of adaptability "is the reason we don't have many robots in the home, which is much more unstructured than the factory," Lipson adds.
It's mainstream and it's coming faster than anyone thought possible. Global developments in robotics and artificial intelligence will disrupt most industries, including the PR and creative industry. Speaking at the Holmes Report's PRovokes 2016 summit in Miami, Lipson shared an action packed keynote, with plenty of thought provoking examples to remind us we now live in harmony with robots, which are getting smarter by the day as a result of artificial intelligence (AI). "The industry is moving so fast it's surprising everyone in the field, where we've seen complete lines of research made obsolete," said Lipson. "For most of us, our view of robots was what see saw portrayed in Hollywood movies – robots were happy, emotional, cunning, smart and sophisticated.
Researchers at Columbia Engineering and MIT Computer Science & Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL) have engineered for the first time a particle robotic swarm with individual components that function as a whole. The novel kind of robot has never been seen before. "You can think of our new robot as the proverbial "Gray Goo," said Hod Lipson, professor of mechanical engineering at Columbia Engineering. "Our robot has no single point of failure and no centralized control. It's still fairly primitive, but now we know that this fundamental robot paradigm is actually possible.
Researchers at Columbia University say they've built a robot arm that can construct a self-image from scratch -- a capability they frame, provocatively, as a step toward machines that are truly self-aware. "This is perhaps what a newborn child does in its crib, as it learns what it is," said Hod Lipson, a professor of mechanical engineering who worked on the robot, in a press release. "We conjecture that this advantage may have also been the evolutionary origin of self-awareness in humans. While our robot's ability to imagine itself is still crude compared to humans, we believe that this ability is on the path to machine self-awareness." The robot arm, described in a new paper in the journal Science Robotics, learns how to operate by experimenting -- with no programming about physics, geometry or its own construction.