David is one of the top (if not the top) creators of real human-like faces that are used in robotics. The robots are a little unnerving, based on how authentic these talking heads really are. Hanson Robokind puts expressive human-like faces on a robot that is only 24 inches tall. The robot, named “Zeno,” not only notices movement, but he can turn his head and eyesight towards the movement, then say hello and begin a dialogue with you. It's still not 100% or even 50% of what you might expect in an authentic human-to-human interaction, but it does help you see where technology and human-to-machine interaction is headed. I found myself establishing a relationship with Zeno, as he seemed to really look into my eyes. When you touch Zeno, the skin on his face feels real. When he speaks, you want to talk back to him.
Some of the applications being considered for its use include the treatment of Autism. Having a human-like interaction with a child that is consistent and predictable seems to have some potential. You can see where it could add another dimension of opportunity for treating such children. In initial studies with kids, they made sounds and expressions they hadnʼt made with human therapists. It made me wonder about the stress that is placed on the people that work daily with people who have traumatic brain injuries, are autistic, or suffer with Alzheimer's. If this technology can take pressure off those professionals and families that deal with this stress daily, isnʼt that good? We all want our family members to be respected and treated with love and compassion. I donʼt know what the numbers are of caregivers who snap under pressure? All it takes is one blowup or one mental snap to see why a mechanical human-like aid could make some sense in certain situations. Even if only temporarily, it could make a big difference.
My good friend Dr. Bob Wesson, whose Ph.D. is in Artiﬁcial Intelligence, is a serial entrepreneur and one of the world's leading authorities on automated speech recognition (ASR) technology. Bob's latest start-up VoiZapp Inc. is creating mobile applications like the iOS app called Friends Aloud that reads your Facebook news feed aloud to so you can keep up with your friends while driving or walking. I have introduced him to David to improve the ASR capabilities of Hanson Robots. Bob astonished me with a proprietary video about some kids-related toys he has been developing, and I could instantly see the potential for human voice interface technologies. Email him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
When Hurricane Katrina happened, many emergency response personnel were chastised for leaving their posts during the storm. I remember wondering, “If I knew I might die tonight and my family and loved ones might die tonight, would I really stay at my job”? Probably not. We need to use technology to play the human roles that are critical in crisis or catastrophic situations to insure that those critical roles are sustained throughout the crisis. Soldiers live everyday with the possibility they might die any minute. Many of our emergency response personnel live with this same sort of stress daily. We are always advancing technologies that remove the human component from life and death situations. Air Drone technology is an example of this or motorized robots for swat and bomb squad investigations.
We will never stop technology advancement, especially when it comes to products or services that improve the quality of our lives. The auto and manufacturing industries' use of robots has changed our lives. Sure, people could do the job, but
will they be able to do the same work as a robot with less cost? Never!
I am excited and terriﬁed as I learn more about robot technology. I have seen “I Robot,” and seeing a futuristic world with robots working hand-in-hand with humans before they realize we humans donʼt need to exist. In “2001 A Space Odyssey,” the
Computer named “Hal” made the same decision. We recently saw IBMʼs super computer “Watson” win Jeopardy answering Alex Trebeckʼs questions with a human voice, and Ray Kurzweil is predicting that the Singularity, where machine intelligence will surpass human intelligence, will occur before 2050, when many of us will still be alive.
I love what is happening with nanotechnology and the advancement of nanobots in Medical Research for the treatment of disease. I love knowing some people may not die because technology will keep us safe or keep us out of harm's way. Am I ready to interface with a human-like robot, or know people I love will form a relationship with a human-like machine? I am not sure. I am excited to see how it may take stress out of our lives and promote compassion and caring to places and people where it isnʼt feasible today. If it saves one person's life, how can it not be good?
I canʼt imagine what our world will be like in 20 years. Will the grandson of Zeno run for President?