iRobot designs and builds robots that make a difference.
iRobot was founded in 1990 by Massachusetts Institute of Technology roboticists with the vision of making practical robots a reality.
In 2013, iRobot generated $487 million in revenue and employed more than 500 of the robot industry’s top professionals, including mechanical, electrical and software engineers and related support staff. iRobot stock trades on the NASDAQ stock market under the ticker symbol IRBT.
iRobot’s corporate headquarters are located in Bedford, Mass. The company also has offices in California, the United Kingdom, China and Hong Kong.
Defense & Security Robots
When President Barack Obama played soccer with Asimo — Honda’s humaniod robot — last month, even he had to admit walking and talking robots are “a little scary.”
Perhaps the Commander in Chief should hear about his Defense Department’s plan to develop robots that decide what is right and what is wrong.
The Office of Naval Research has $7.5 million set aside in grant money over the next five years for university researchers to build a robot with moral reasoning capabilities.
Proponents of the plan argue a “sense of moral consequence” could allow robotic systems to operate as one part of a more efficient — and truly autonomous — defense infrastructure. And some of those advocates think pre-programmed machines would make better decisions than humans, since they could only follow strict rules of engagement and calculate potential outcomes for multiple different scenarios.
And that does make sense to some, according to Gizmodo. “With drones, missile defines, autonomous vehicles, etc., the military is rapidly creating systems that will need to make moral decisions,” AI researcher Steven Omohundro told Defense One.
“Human lives and property rest on the outcomes of these decisions and so it is critical that they be made carefully and with full knowledge of the capabilities and limitations of the systems involved. The military has always had to define ‘the rules of war’ and this technology is likely to increase the stakes for that,” he said.
“There’s operational morality, functional morality, and full moral agency,” Wendell Wallach, Wendell Wallach, Yale Technology and Ethics Study Group chair, said. “Operational morality is what you already get when the operator can discern all the situations that the robot may come under and program in appropriate responses… Functional morality is where the robot starts to move into situations where the operator can’t always predict what [the robot] will encounter and [the robot] will need to bring some form of ethical reasoning to bear.”
Consider some of the following examples of “moral machines” in today’s world:
- Robot “surgeons” that can perform procedures, such as cardiac surgery, by themselves.
- Unmanned Aerial Vehicles used to surveil and kill people, controlled via remote by soldiers off the battlefield, sometimes on another continent.
- Robots that can clean, make and serve food, or take care of the elderly or sick by dispensing medications or even providing companionship.
- Surveillance systems that can use facial recognition to identify people in crowds and compare them to databases, with an aim to identify terrorists or criminals.
Then, consider what these could develop into: autonomous robot surgeons that perform surgeries completely independently from a doctor’s supervision; robotic ground and air soldiers that “decide” when and who to kill on the battlefield; robot babysitters and nurses that watch over children, sick people, and the elderly; fully-computerized security systems that identify criminals and can use that information to institute emergency airport lockdowns.
If humanity is to avoid the consequences of bad autonomous artificial agents, people must be prepared to think hard about what it will take to make such agents good.
The Incredible Bionic Man
Ekso is a wearable bionic suit which enables individuals with any amount of lower extremity weakness to stand up and walk over ground with a natural, full weight bearing, reciprocal gait. Walking is achieved by the user’s weight shifts to activate sensors in the device which initiate steps. Battery-powered motors drive the legs, replacing deficient neuromuscular function.
- Provides a means for people with as much as complete paralysis, and minimal forearm strength, to stand and walk
- Helps patients re-learn proper step patterns and weight shifts using a functional based platform
- Facilitates intensive step dosage over ground
Ekso is a gait training exoskeleton intended for medically supervised use by individuals with various levels of paralysis or hemiparesis due to neurological conditions such as stroke, spinal cord injury or disease, traumatic brain injury and more. With medical clearance, it typically facilitates walking for people with a broad range of motor abilities and sizes; which may include up to C7 complete, any level of incomplete SCI, and non-or pre-ambulatory individuals post-stroke.
The wearable robotics suit is being designed to help with the many logistics challenges faced by the military both in and out of theater. Repetitive heavy lifting can lead to injuries, orthopedic injuries in particular. The XOS 2 does the lifting for its operator, reducing both strain and exertion. It also does the work faster. One operator in an exoskeleton suit can do the work of two to three soldiers. Deploying exoskeletons would allow military personnel to be reassigned to more strategic tasks. The suit is built from a combination of structures, sensors, actuators and controllers, and it is powered by high pressure hydraulics.
Feminists often complain about women being objectified, but what happens if objects are actually constructed to look – and act – like women? According to some New Zealand researchers studying the sex industry, and how it may evolve in the coming years, that may be precisely what’s on the horizon. Fox News sums up the study, which predicts that the sex industry might move full tilt into offering up robot prostitutes:
Ian Yeoman and Michelle Mars of the Victoria Management School in Wellington, New Zealand, wrote about an imaginary brothel in Amsterdam’s red-light district called Yub-Yum.
The research paper titled Robots, Men And Sex Tourism describes the brothel as being “modern and gleaming with about 100 scantily clad blondes and brunettes parading around in exotic G-strings and lingerie,” io9 reported.
They said clients would pay $9,500 for an “all-inclusive service,” featuring lap dances and intercourse from “a range of sexual gods and goddesses of different ethnicity, body shapes, ages, languages and sexual features.
They also predicted robot prostitution would put a stop to human trafficking associated with the sex industry.
In effect, the paper predicts that RealDolls will be made sentient. Depending on your point of view, this is either deeply disturbing or a welcome potential escape from the exploitation involved in the sex industry. Unfeeling robots are far preferable to living, breathing, easily hurt people, but on the other hand, wouldn’t this simply reinforce the culture of consequenceless sex that’s been built up in America?
And let’s not even get into what certain Secret Service Agents might think…
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