Headline, December 15 2023/ ''' WORLDS ROBOTICISTS WONDER '''



" ! ONE SMALL STEP !. WALKING AND BALANCING - WE TAKE IT FOR GRANTED -but it's not that easy to describe mathematically, '' says Doug Stephen,  Research Associate, IHMC.

Which raises a question. If it takes so much  backbreaking math, why teach a robot to walk at all. It's a basic requirement of the DARPA challenge, and a staple of science fiction, but when you think about it, why bother?

Predators drones walk. Roombas don't walk.  The surface of the earth is a challenging enough environment for a robot as it is.  Why not just put wheels on the robot and call it a day?

That way it wouldn't fall over all the time, plus you wouldn't have to reach it to get in and out of cars, because it would basically be a car. Why even make a robot look like a human?

This is not an uncontroversial topic in the world of robotics. The conventional argument in favour of humanoid robots is that they are better at operating in environments that were built by and for  humans. 

'' Doorways have a certain width, door handles have a certain height,  the steering wheel on cars is in certain place, the pedals are in certain place,'' Gill Pratt says. '' All of these things are built for our form. If you want a machine to adapt to it, that makes a lot of sense.

But there's room for disagreement on this score. Colin Angle is one of the world's foremost roboticist and the CEO of iRobot, a prominent supplier of robots to the military, it also makes the Roomba. One thing iRobot doesn't make is humanoid robots.

'' Walking robots aren't particularly practical,'' Angle says. He prefers wheels or even tank-style tracks - as examples he gives iRobot's Kobra and PackBot robots, which are marketed to military and civil defense agencies. '' They can run up stairs at 5 to 10 m.p.h. They don't have to step, and you can drop them off a second story of buildings and they'll survive.

When Fukushima happened, there were in fact rescue robots already available. They just didn't look like people. '' When push came to shove a few years back, when the world needed a robot to go inside a reactor and help figure out how to shut it down, the robot that went in had tracks.''

ONE OF THE KEY DIFFERENCES BETWEEN humanoid robots and driverless cars is that everybody knows what driverless cars are for. It's not as clear what the market for robots like Atlas is.

Everyone's watching Google, which spearheaded self-driving cars and which has rolled up at least half a dozen promising robotics companies in the past two years, but nobody has any idea yet, literally none, what its plans are.

[ Though Google did file a patent in March for a robot that can change its personality to suit different circumstances.] Gill Pratt suggests health care and elder care as possible practical applications.

Jerry Pratt thinks a bit bigger. '' Long term -and who knows if it's going to be 10 or 15 or 200 years - I think the big commercial application is in a person's home : emptying the dishwasher, ding their laundry.'' He's bullish on the robotic exploration and colonization of Mars.

But he acknowledges that there are a lot of problems to be solved before then. The balance problem. The cost problem. The safety problem. And of course before we can have robot butlers, or nurses, or first responders, or interplanetary colonists, the IHMC robot is going to have to figure out how to turn that valve handle.

Twenty-four hours after its table whacking  Lost in Space tantrum, it's back in action. It paces towards the valve handle, bent-legged, cautious and intent, like an entomologist who has spotted a rare butterfly.

It reaches out a claw-hand, stops and is overcome with a Parkinson's-like tremor. Reboot. After half an hour it manages to put one hand on the valve, then it freezes again. But it may have overheated. There's talk of an air bubble in the hydraulic line. Reboot.

On the next try it comes in more slowly, swaying from side to side like a canny boxer. The robot reaches out, concentrating furiously, touches the handle, grips it - and slowly, deliberately rotates it 360 degrees, a quarter-turn at a time.

There is no cheering. The engineers continue to mill around. Someone recaps an April Fool's joke from a Linux mailing list. The robot lets go of the handle and starts trembling again.

A few minutes later it will get confused about where the floor is and fall over and be hauled up to the ceiling again - a wire-fu artist on a cigarette break. '' There's the old saying, If you fail to plan, then you're planning to fail,'' Johnson says.

'' I think Ben Franklin said that? In robotics, if you don't plan to fail, you're going to fail. You have to just count on failure.''

The Honour and Serving of the publishing, as robots and future advance, continues in the future. The World Students Society thanks Lev GrossMan, with reporting by Alex Fitzpatrick and Dan Kedmet.

With respectful dedication to the Global Founder Framers of !WOW! and then Students, Professors and Teachers of the world. See Ya all prepare for Great Global Elections on : wssciw.blogspot.com and Twitter X !E-WOW! - The Ecosystem 2011 :

Good Night and God Bless

SAM Daily Times - the Voice of the Voiceless


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