Saturday - May 18, 2024

Meet Hitchbot: The Canadian Robot That is Adding Flair to Artificial Intelligence


The hitchhiking robot in the streets of Canada

Just in time when the world needed more humane robots, hitchBOT seems to answer this quest. And he is fast changing the views of many about robots or necessary ‘beings’. Those in Canada who have had an encounter with hitchBOT say he is harmless, friendly and very intelligent. He took to the streets of Canada and targets a 4000 mile journey through the major Canadian cities. As you pass by him, he will request for a ride, speak and even tweet. The going has been good so far and the creators are expecting the robot to be a big success to the future of AI.

What is hitchBOT made of?

The creators of hitchBOT, Smith and Zeller, operated on a minimal budget of $100 to make this wonderful robot. They improvised a bucket for the torso, pool noodles for legs and arms, Led panel for a face (it is a smiling face) and a tablet PC for the ‘internal’ parts. With this simplicity, hitchBOT will talk, answer simple questions and be gentle enough to interact with people. It uses GPS to record its encounters and has a well facilitated website to guide people on how to operate and interact with it. The ‘brain’ is equipped with the resources on Wikipedia.

Technology takes a twist each day; 

Technology takes a twist each day and in every twist, a new innovation is born. We have had great innovations that have become pivotal to the very existence of human beings. For instance, look at what computer technology has done to the world. It is even unimaginable to think of how our previous generation survived without computers. One of the fields where technology is taking center stage is artificial intelligence (AI).

Industries are using robots to run processes that were previously done by human beings. Some of these industry processes are so delicate that you cannot imagine that they would be done without the help AI. But what is fascinating is the fact that what seems to be a great invention today, may be a miniature thing in the future just like the case of CRT computers which used to be popular but nobody is talking about them today. 

You may have seen it all; from drones to driverless cars. For a long time now, robots have worked with human beings in industries. Their movement has been restricted to only where they work. But now, robots are more autonomous and have the freedom to move around. There have been fatalities from robotics (33 deaths in US for the last three decades). The numbers may lie but this is not a trivial matter. This is why HDT Robotics are trying to make more human-like robots that will have eyes, sensitivity to human emotions and the intelligence to discern good from evil. Companies are competing with each other in trying to create the most harmless and useful AI programs & hardware.

Good and bad robots
hitchBOTRobots are becoming more helpful and humane. Tom Friedman, founder of Rethink, once said that modern robots are more flexible, autonomous and easy to interact with. He projected that the new generation of robots will not try to replace or displace human beings, but they will complement human activities. This is what is being described as the good side of robots.

The Times, recently reported on a story of the bad side of robots. In China, many employees have lost their jobs due to the presence of robots which are cheaper and a bit faster. In the opinion of many, a robot that renders the existence of human beings as obsolete is actually a bad robot. However, the robots are just not efficient and will always need human assistance. What is being replaced is the mass of unskilled workers. Skilled employees are not losing their jobs. Instead, they are left with less strenuous work. You may have noticed a decrease in industrial injuries in the past five years. The big reason behind this is the advancement of robots that are more efficient and safer.

Have humans heard the checkmate warning from AI?

Computers have mastered exceptional skills in beating human beings at their own game. Chess world champion, Garry Kasparov, was beaten hands down in 1997 by IBM chess computer Deep Blue. Humans are the big brains behind these super computer hardware and software. Undoubtedly, as hitchBOT has demonstrated, hyper-intelligent robots are coming and humans may need to be concerned.

It is a farfetched idea to claim that robots will once be altruistic, but they will be something near that. It is a fact that they will never show emotions or make decisions like humans. However, it is in order to think of how it will be to live with robots. Will they not want to restrict our freedom or worse, wipe out the human population? The future of technology is an intricate field to predict but human beings may rest easy since no party crasher is in the hovering to reality. At least hitchBOT has given us that assurance.

What hitchBOT means to the future of AI

What we can say about robots is a pure speculation. However, judging from the recent developments, robots will keep getting better and better but not to the extent of surpassing humans. HitchBOT has proven that robots can be intelligent and harmless to human beings. They will be part of human life as long as technology continues to grow.

The future will be governed by different types of robots. Each type will posses skills and prowess that is specific to the tasks they perform. Altruistic robots could have the least advancement since human beings may be afraid of creating a competitor that is going to replace them.