Sunday, December 23, 2007

Talking Robots Podcast

In the latest LIVE edition of Shrinkrapradio the guest speaker was Tom Barbalet. He makes a couple of podcasts of his own: Biota (which I have commented on before) and Ape Reality. He also turned my attention to the podcast Talking Robots a podcast about robotics and Artificial Intelligence. I have heard and enjoyed the last editions of Talking Robots.

Talking Robots podcasts take around 20-30 minutes and contain interviews, very proficiently conducted by Sabine Hauert with specialist from the field. Last week she spoke with Tandy Tower from Microsoft Robotics Group and this week with José Halloy of the Free University of Brussels, who recently made the news (BBC) with his cockroach robots. Also for the absolute layman, such as myself, these podcasts are intelligible and interesting.

What is the first thing I learned from both Tower and Halloy is that robotics has come much closer to the household than I have thought. The archetypical robot we think of are like Data, Kryten and other androids, and those are still far away. However, when I use the vegetable program of my microwave is adapts its time and power to the size and weight of what I have placed inside. This is an example of robotics: a machine adapting itself to the environment. We should expect our washing machines and dish washers to ascertain the dirt on their contents, adapt temperature and dosage of detergent. As Halloy puts it: Why can't my fridge be responsible for the shopping list? I'd like that.

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