Enabling Technologies For Practical Robotics
Today on PhysOrg.News two articles appeared which, in my opinion, will prove to be enabling technological discoveries for autonomous practical robots.
The first article reports the discovery of artificial muscles, powered by alcohol and hydrogen, that are 100 times as strong as natural muscles. The
second article reports that a means to embed miniscule electronic sensors and other electronics devices within fiber optic tubes has been discovered
and this in turn will, I believe, allow development of extremely sensitive artificial nerves.
NANOTECHNOLOGISTS DEMONSTRATE ARTIFICIAL MUSCLES POWERED BY
HIGHLY ENERGETIC FUELS, March 16
University of Texas at Dallas nanotechnologists have made
alcohol- and hydrogen-powered artificial muscles that are 100 times
stronger than natural muscles, able to do 100 times greater
work per cycle and produce, at reduced strengths, larger
contractions than natural muscles. Among other possibilities, these
muscles could enable fuel-powered artificial limbs, "smart skins"
and morphing structures for air and marine vehicles, autonomous
robots having very long mission capabilities and smart sensors
that detect and self-actuate to change the environment.
Full story at www.physorg.com...
NEW PROCESS BUILDS ELECTRONIC FUNCTION INTO OPTICAL FIBER,
Optical fiber helped bring us the Internet, and
silicon/germanium devices brought us microelectronics. Now, a joint team from
Penn State University and the University of Southampton has
developed a new way to combine these technologies. The team has
made semiconductor devices, including a transistor, inside
microstructured optical fibers. The resulting ability to generate and
manipulate signals inside optical fibers could have
applications in fields as diverse as medicine, computing, and remote
Full story at www.physorg.com...
The limiting technologies of practical autonomous robots in my opinion are:
(1) The inability to date to include a generic power source able to provide enough power over a long enough time span in a package small enough to be
truely useful. This drawback manifests itself by requiring robots much larger than desired just to be able to do the physical work of a human for a
relatively short time period.
(2) The inability to incorporate vision, touch, smell, etc., into a robust field deployable autonomous robot. Artificial touch, smell, vision, etc.
are all capable of being produced, but here-to-fore these types of capabilities have required near continuous human servicing to operate. Further,
packages containing a sufficient variety of such devices to mimic (in even a rudimentary way) a human's capabilities would be extremely large and
require relatively large power sources just to make them mobile.
(3) The inability to date to create a true Artificial Intelligence. This limitation is seemingly becoming less important all the time. Today robust
processors occupying just a tiny volume of space can accomplish what would have required an entire building full of processors only a short time ago
and they are getting faster & smaller & tougher all the time.
By far, the biggest limitation has been the lack of a powerful, relatively long lasting, mobile power source. The first discovery (announced above)
appears to neatly solve this problem. Even without any other advance, this discovery should enable human directed robots to be built. Robots that
could outwork a human, especially in dangerous environments would be extremely useful. Imagine a gang of them fighting a forest fire for example. The
list of things they could do would be almost limitless. One or more humans would need to accompany & direct them until such time as a true AI is
created, but that would be a small price to pay. If such robots could be built at an affordable cost, imagine the ways you could use them personally.