He Was No Robot, He Was My Friend!

Reuters had a rather disheveled piece yesterday about military robots in Iraq and how soldiers were getting attached to them, even grieving over their loss. That’s not the mixed up part. That’s completely understandable (more mundane example: I SWEAR my Roomba has an unhealthly interest in the umbrella stand by the front door and snubs his bump sensors at me as I yell: “Hey, stay away from there!” and “Get the rug out of your mouth”). The strange bit is how they used the robot casualties in Iraq angle to segue into talking about Rodney Brooks/iRobot’s ideas on robot avatars. This is Brooks’ answer to being able to get highly intelligent robots into our lives before reliable artificial intelligence is ready for prime time. So, what’s a robot avatar? Well, remote-controlled robots, such as the military PackBots, could qualify. But Brooks’ idea is a bit more expansive than R/C. After the jump is a piece of “micro-fiction” I wrote for my book Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Building Robots. Written for the intro to the “Robot Evolution” chapter, it explains one possible senario using Brooks’ concept.