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February 24, 2010

Robots Should Stay out of the Kitchen

This is wrong on so many levels. The NYT reports on the latest doings in the robotics lab:
With Dr. Rybski looking on like a proud parent, a bearded graduate student clacked away at a laptop on a roving service cart, and the robot rolled forward to fulfill its primary function: the delivery of one foil-wrapped Nature Valley trail-mix flavor granola bar.

"Hello, I'm the Snackbot," it said in a voice not unlike that of HAL 9000, from "2001: A Space Odyssey," as its rectangular LED "mouth" pulsated to form the words. "I've come to deliver snacks to Ian. Is Ian here?"
Now, Snackbot exists to help gather data on human/robot interactions. Although a careful review of the relevant data contained within such works as Battlestar Galactica, Terminator, 2001: A Space Odyssey or even the lackluster I, Robot will give a discerning viewer all the information he or she needs to understand the dangers robots pose to humankind.

But it gets worse:

The Snackbot is but one soldier in a veritable army of new robots designed to serve and cook food and, in the process, act as good-will ambassadors, and salesmen, for a more automated future.

The article then proceeds to describe some of these "soldiers" culminating in the shocking robot-human hybrid that is the innocuously named Motoman SDA-10:

First they make our sushi. Then they enslave us.

The scientists involved with these efforts readily admit that the whole idea is meant to counteract the important lessons we've learned from Terminator and BSG and acclimate us to the idea of a future populated with robot servers. We all know how that story ends, don't we?

My suggestion: boil your own pot of water and leave the robots out of the equation entirely.

Photo credit: Koji Sasahara/Associated Press

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