EDGE 2015 is starting in

Find out more EDGE 2015
Menu
CES - A sensitive arm is the next big thing for robots

CES - A sensitive arm is the next big thing for robots

The next big thing for robots is creating an arm that can manipulate objects in a similar way to that of a human, Microsoft's robotics chief said.

Making a robot laugh by tickling it may be fun, but robots could mean real business when they get arms and hands that mimic the dexterity and sensitivity of humans.

Robots with fully functioning arms would be able to set tables, load dishwashers and pick up delicate objects, said Tandy Trower, general manager of Microsoft's robotics group, during an interview at the International Consumer Electronics show in Las Vegas.

"That will be the tipping point. Once robots can manipulate things in our environment in a safe way, they can do virtually anything a human can possibly do physically."

The hardware needed for that may be available in five years, but the real challenge will be in programming the robot, Trower said. Software that allows robots to figure out surface textures and identify objects will require many lines of complex code that takes a long time to write, Trower said.

While hoping for a fully-functioning arm is reasonable, expecting real intelligence is another matter, Trower said.

"The artificial intelligence community has struggled for years to create models that allow technology to be more expansive. What we find today are crude things," like robots with limited human interaction, Trower said.

Building smart robots that can interact with people requires not only smart robot programmers, but also experts in other fields like communications and interfaces.

Predictions in the 1960s that PCs would control humans were overblown, and the PC remains a servant to us today. The chance that robots will rise up and control humans is also not very likely, Trower said.

Still, they will play a significant part in our lives. They could help ensure that a person's elderly parents living alone take their medicines on time, Trower said. "Humans might get exasperated, but robots are never going to get tired of saying, 'Here, take your medications.'"

Robots already work in emergency situations and are saving lives, Trower noted. Robots from iRobot are being used to search for improvised explosive devices in Iraq, for example.

"Robots have proven themselves to be more useful and not your imaginary threat that we've seen Hollywood [movies] portray," Trower said.

The health care industry may be a big growth opportunity for robotics, but it will require programmers with specialized skills to create robots intended to work in a doctor's surgery, for example, he said.

To improve the quality of programmers, universities are trying to introduce mainstream robotics courses. Carnegie Mellon University, for example, has started a course based on Microsoft's Robotics Studio software, according to Trower.

Another challenge is creating interoperability between the various software platforms and tools used to program robots. Getting away from proprietary systems will make it easier to exchange ideas and software code and help people build reliable robots, Trower said.

EDGE 2015:: For all the latest on EDGE 2015 including the keynote speakers visit the EDGE mini-site now

Follow Us

Join the ARN newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Upcoming

Slideshows

In Pictures: 7 things we hate about Twitter

In Pictures: 7 things we hate about Twitter

You probably either love Twitter for its quirkiness and brevity or see it as a pointless waste of time. After nearly a decade on the social scene, Twitter still needs to improve its user experience and fill in notable gaps in the service. These seven problems are long overdue for a fix.

In Pictures: 7 things we hate about Twitter
IN PICTURES: EDGE 2015 - Sponsor Briefing

IN PICTURES: EDGE 2015 - Sponsor Briefing

With EDGE 2015 rapidly approaching, ARN and Reseller News NZ held a Sponsors Briefing where ARN publisher and president, Susan Searle, and Events Manager, Alexandra West, ran through the considerable logistics in detail. Attendees then enjoyed some splendid canapes and drinks. EDGE is designed to bring the A/NZ channel together in a collaborative and educational environment. Themed around channel channel leadership, EDGE will be held at the Sheraton Mirage, Port Douglas, July 20-23. Photos by MIKE GEE.

IN PICTURES: EDGE 2015 - Sponsor Briefing
In Pictures: Robots that cook, clean, sing and dance

In Pictures: Robots that cook, clean, sing and dance

Cooking, learning language and doing the laundry are a few of the human skills demonstrated by.real humanoid bots featured in the National Geographic movie Robots.

In Pictures: Robots that cook, clean, sing and dance

iasset.com is a channel management ecosystem that automates all major aspects of the entire sales, marketing and service process, including data tracking, integrated learning, knowledge management and product lifecycle management.

Show Comments