Friday, September 30, 2005

The Scope of this Blog

As an editor of a blog focusing on Robotics news, and a roboticist with firm personal views about what defines a robot, I'm torn about how to choose stories.

For now I'm covering about three major stories a day, and that will probably increase to four or five by the end of the year. Hopefully we'll see more development in this sector until we need multiple editors and bloggers just to keep up with it all.

However I'm torn about what to report. Much of the mainstream media consistently run "robot" stories in which no real "robots" are mentioned.

In short, my problem is this: An electromechanical device that relays data to a remote-control station and receives 100% of it's command input from a human at that station is not a robot. The media doesn't understand this. Sometimes it seems that any device that moves under electrical power is called "robot" even in the absence of any decision making ability.

I have created a set of diagrams that should make clear my distinction between a robot and a machine. This first image is a diagram of the three types of machines, which I call open-loop-human-input (OLHI) machines, human-feedback-input machines (HFI), and remote-human-feedback-input (RHFI) machines.
The media often refers to certain instances of these last two classes as "robots" despite their inability to make their own decisions.

These are contrasted with two types of robots, standard robots which might receive direct electronic commands from humans but also make basic decisions independently or in cooperation with their users, and autonomous robots, where the human is part of the environment and all human input comes through the sensor suite--like any other input.

For the time being, Rossum's Children will continue to cover robots, autonomous robots, and HFI and RHFI machines, due to their prominent place as part of the 'robotics' community. Certainly the tasks these machines carry out are no less noble than those of their more autonomous brethren, and their development has resulted in many improvements in the technology of the sensors and actuators that are also used on robots.

However, as the robotics industry grows and news becomes more abundant, expect to see fewer and fewer HFI/RHFI stories.

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home