Teresa Escrig

News and oppinion about Cognitive AI & Robotics

The Service Robotics Revolution

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I have always thought that working at a repetitive task everyday simply for money should not be something that a person does. Life which is meant to be lived to its fullest, becomes an experience of surviving, not an expression of creativity, or fulfillment of every individual’s passion, full potential and purpose.

I have dedicated my entire professional life, almost 20 years of research, to developing a Cognitive Brain, which can be installed in almost any vehicle to transform it into an autonomous robot. One designed to serve individuals, commerce and industry in a variety of ways, without any human intervention. I clearly envisioned this future and had such passion that I created a whole research group to pursue that dream.

What does that future look like? Imagine that the floors of our workplaces, where we shop, airports, hospitals, schools, even our own homes were never again cleaned by a person, but by an autonomous cleaning machine controlled by this Cognitive Brain.

Imagine how cool it would be if that same Cognitive Brain were installed into a companion robot, a 3 foot tall, friendly helper for the elderly, that would remind them to take their pills every day, watch their safety, call their relatives and friends through teleconferences, keep them cognitively active and motivated, and at the same time keep the house clean.

What if that same Cognitive Brain were installed into a 3 foot tall security robot, patrolling garages, shopping malls, airports, any work environment, even at home, with autonomous image processing to distinguish anomalies in their environment which would then trigger a security protocol.

And if the same Cognitive Brain could be installed into lawn mowers, Zamboni machines for ice skating arenas, forklifts, excavators, concrete tampers and polishers, land machinery. The list is endless and it will grow as more vehicles become autonomous. All those repetitive tasks will be performed for us.

A simple version of the Cognitive Brain could also be installed into a tele-presence robot, used by doctors and other specialists from a central location, allowing them to perform their work remotely without the need to travel. The commands to the robot would be more sophisticated than now, where the robot is moved with a joystick. For example, “go to the conference room”, or “say hello to all my colleagues”.

A part of that Cognitive Brain could also be used to enhance the personal marketing provided by search engines.

Another part of the Cognitive Brain – Cognitive Vision – could be used in mobile applications. One example might be – you take your ‘smart phone’ with you to go mushroom hunting, the application tells you, on-site, if the mushroom in front of you is edible or not, or the plant in front of you is medicinal or not. How many applications can we think of if we had a Cognitive Vision system that could really identify objects and connect their name with a full concept of the object and its relationship with other objects?

If I told you that the Cognitive Vision System extracts only the most significant information from images, transforming thousands of pixels without meaning into dozens of tags with semantics, can you imagine how much we could improve the speed in transferring images through the Internet? Astronauts exploring other worlds would not have to wait 20 minutes to receive an image from Earth when they are on Mars, or vice-versa.

If we could provide meaning to the objects included in pictures, our Internet image search would become more precise.

The amount of applications and consequences of such a Cognitive Brain are infinite.

Such a Cognitive Brain is definitely going to open the service robotics market.

Even more it could be a natural transition from the Information Revolution, where we are right now, into the Service Robotics Revolution.

At Cognitive Robots we have developed and tested the embryonic of the Cognitive Brain. And we have all the pieces together to continue developing it to its maturity.

Other people have had the vision of robots at the service of humans. Bill Gates wrote an article for Scientific American in 2006 “A Robot in Every Home”. However this is not a reality in the market yet, because although physically robots have been beautifully developed, they have not been intelligent enough to adapt to new circumstances in a changing environment, they are not able to perceive and interpret their environment well enough, nor are they able to infer new information from the one already known, or they have not integrated all the aspects needed into the same hardware.

The uncertainty existing in a real environment, where robots are near people to serve us has been traditionally solved using stochastic or probabilistic methods. Those methods are a type of brute force with little if any cognitive intelligence, which in my opinion is the reason why service robotics has been stuck in the same stage for so long.

Coming from another area of research, artificial intelligence, instead of robotics, we saw the problem and therefore the solutions from another point of view that set us apart. This has been the use of Qualitative Reasoning, Cognitive Vision and a Learning process. Beside these 3 preparatory, very innovative basic components of our Cognitive Brain, we have also developed the rest of the components to provide the full behavior as a Brain. All the components have been developed in a highly modular way, so that they can be improved, changed, or added, without disturbing the other components. The Cognitive Brain can grow and evolve easily. It has also been integrated into hardware, which provides the Brain with the sensorial information and the capacity of thinking and deciding. And it is independent of the “body”, therefore it can be installed in many different vehicles, or even run virtually through the Internet.

We can be witnesses to a world with robots liberating people from repetitive tasks progressively in the next 5 years if this technology is supported and developed to its full potential.

Written by Teresa Escrig

March 14th, 2012 at 1:42 am

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