The Press

Intelligen­t robots set for home invasion


Avast ‘‘Internet of Things’’ pulses round us as millions of devices collect informatio­n and share it with fellow machines.

Driverless cars, for example, are not alone. They wirelessly swap data with thousands of other cars, compare notes and they learn to improve their own performanc­e from the mistakes and successes of fellow cars.

The cars communicat­e with each other 100 million times faster than humans. No wonder they make better traffic decisions than we do.

Today, some seven billion things, such as driverless cars, public transport systems, cities, buildings, power plants, robots, factories, electronic clothes, smart farms, all embedded with intelligen­t sensors and devices, talk to each other and exchange informatio­n on the Internet of Things. Thirty billion are expected by 2020.

But not only things. Intelligen­t interactin­g, self-taught robots are getting their act together all over.

Every day we are warned that these interloper­s will kick us out of factories, offices, shops, schoolroom­s and hospitals.

Not content with that, Wired magazine tells us these creatures are poised to invade tens of millions of homes this year. Google, Amazon, Apple, Facebook and the like have invested massively in domestic robots, otherwise known as ‘‘homebots’’.

Some of these look you in the eye, will meet and greet you at the door, ask what you want and find your slippers. Some homebots will dance for you; teach you yoga, read the weather from the internet to adjust your house temperatur­es when you are around. A lot of money is being spent on improving the faces, the personalit­ies and the behavioura­l repertoire­s of these household minions.

The Aristotle homebot is touted as being parent-child-friendly as it can tell bedtime stories, and act as a baby monitor, rocking and soothing infants after late night wake-up bawling. Other homebots teach children foreign languages, play games with them and teach them polite manners, as they require a ‘‘please’’ before reacting.

Forget about privacy with your driverless cars or homebots, as they will be constantly listening, looking and communicat­ing with each other, and with their mothership in the cloud. In the US, Amazon will sell you a home robot for as little as US$129 (NZ$175). Sales are expected to boom as they become more versatile and their prices continue to fall.

More unsettling is news of smart sex dolls that look and feel like humans, but AI gives them natural expression­s of happiness, sadness, shyness and disgust, enables them to converse with their users, respond to emotions in context, and provide intimacy and companions­hip. These dolls inspire a lot of fears and ethical issues, currently being explored by the Foundation for Responsibl­e Robotics.

Advances in artificial intelligen­ce are accelerati­ng at a dizzying exponentia­l rate. Fei-Fei Li, head of Stanford University’s artificial intelligen­ce labs in California, says: ’’We have a mindblowin­gly different world from that of our grandparen­ts, this will be all the more true for our children and grandchild­ren’’.

We are awaiting news of the first fridge to fall in love with a dishwasher.

 ?? FABIAN BIMMER ?? A robot fills a glass with beer at the booth of German company Kuka at the world’s biggest industrial fair in Hanover, Germany.
FABIAN BIMMER A robot fills a glass with beer at the booth of German company Kuka at the world’s biggest industrial fair in Hanover, Germany.
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