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May 21, 2007

Almost Human

Filed under: Books,Robots — Bob @ 8:07 pm

Almost Human by Lee GutkindMy father-in-law is very generous. Recently he bought me Almost Human by Lee Gutkind, a book of stories about a variety of robotics research. Most stories center around the CMU Robotics Institutes’s various projects pushing the envelope of autonomous robot behavior, although the most interesting story is about Manuela Veloso’s vision for RoboCup.

Another interesting topic is about the CMU Zoƫ project, a research project in the Chilean desert for an autonomous platform capable of conducting a search for biological elements without human intervention. The navigation and science packages may someday be included in a rover destined for Mars. In fact the author spends the majority of pages on this project, likely because it has sensational appeal, and because the author traveled to the location to watch one of the several exercises.

The book also touches on some of the people involved in these projects. The human element really comes through, and its nice to hear the researches are willing, and able, to bond emotionally with the machines they create. In my opinion the true test of robotics intelligence will be when a robot is able to establish a similar emotional bond with people.

I’d recommend this book although it’s definitely not a technical resource like The Principals of Robot Motion, but still it can be inspiring for people who make robots. I really like the idea that robotics research is progressing by leaps and bounds in my lifetime. I’m looking forward to seeing autonomous robotic researchers crawling the surface of the Moon and Mars as well as the first robot-human soccer game. I wonder who will win such a match?

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