13 responses

  1. Guest
    May 6, 2009

    I fail to understand how you can call this much of an “advance in robotics”. It is not much more than a bit of refinement of some mechanical engineering. It might be justified to say that “we now have small machines that can climb stairs much better”, but that is hardly a big robotics breakthrough.

    Let us make a distinction between incremental improvements and breakthroughs. Dean Kamen got approval to sell his functional wheelchairs that could climb stairs very well, 6 years ago. he first built them eariler than that. Further, the electronic sophistication of the device is greater than anything shown here. It was larger, yes, but it can fairly be said that it represents a higher level of “robotics” than any of the machines mentioned in this article, with the possible exception of “big dog”. And that was years ago, folks!

    Processing speed and power have advanced at a great pace. But a fast dumb computer is still a dumb computer. It can simulate “intelligence” a bit better, by virtue (and cost) of the vastly more complex software that it can now run because of that speed. But again, these are incremental improvements.

    There have been no real breakthroughs either mechanically or computationally in the field of robotics for decades. Until one does occur, do not expect anything resembling true “AI” or independence, in the foreseeable future. (Breakthroughs, by their very nature, are not foreseeable.)

    I like your website, but things need to be kept in perspective. “AI” has been relatively stagnant for a long time. The changes we have been seeing have been incremental: evolutionary rather than revolutionary. It is rather presumptuous to predict major advances when all we have actually seen are incremental changes.

  2. Lonny Eachus
    May 6, 2009

    I fail to understand how you can call this much of an “advance in robotics”. It is not much more than a bit of refinement of some mechanical engineering. It might be justified to say that “we now have small machines that can climb stairs much better”, but that is hardly a big robotics breakthrough.

    Let us make a distinction between incremental improvements and breakthroughs. Dean Kamen got approval to sell his functional wheelchairs that could climb stairs very well, 6 years ago. he first built them eariler than that. Further, the electronic sophistication of the device is greater than anything shown here. It was larger, yes, but it can fairly be said that it represents a higher level of “robotics” than any of the machines mentioned in this article, with the possible exception of “big dog”. And that was years ago, folks!

    Processing speed and power have advanced at a great pace. But a fast dumb computer is still a dumb computer. It can simulate “intelligence” a bit better, by virtue (and cost) of the vastly more complex software that it can now run because of that speed. But again, these are incremental improvements.

    There have been no real breakthroughs either mechanically or computationally in the field of robotics for decades. Until one does occur, do not expect anything resembling true “AI” or independence, in the foreseeable future. (Breakthroughs, by their very nature, are not foreseeable.)

    I like your website, but things need to be kept in perspective. “AI” has been relatively stagnant for a long time. The changes we have been seeing have been incremental: evolutionary rather than revolutionary. It is rather presumptuous to predict major advances when all we have actually seen are incremental changes.

  3. Keith Kleiner
    May 6, 2009

    Lonny,

    I respectfully, but strongly, disagree with your comments.

    First of all, the post does not claim that these robots represent major breakthroughs, nor that they require the resources and ability of a Dean Kamen to create. In fact, that is exactly the point! 6 years ago we needed Dean Kamen to make stair climbing robots that worked well, now people are creating robots that can do this all over the world, in several different ways, some more sophisticated than others, but all functional. This represents a “sea change” in robotics that I think you are failing to see.

    Robots today are doing surgery, serving drinks, performing synchronized dancing, and yes, even climbing stairs today. These achievements were either non-existent or found only in the realms of the Dean Kamen’s only 5-10 years ago. Now individuals can make robots that do these things in their garages with limited resources. How can you not recognize that this is an amazing advancement?

    The advance of robots is not represented by a single major breakthrough…it is instead the culmination of millions of incremental improvements that are happening on a daily basis. While people like you are asleep at the wheel claiming that robots are not improving, those who step back and look at the big picture know that the real story is that robots are improving and adapting with alarming speed.

    As a final comment, I will note that you are mixing AI and robotics interchangeably, as if they are the same thing, but they are not. Coincidentally, the same story that we are seeing in robotics is indeed occurring with AI. Most people, you included no doubt, will claim that AI has not made any advances in the last decade, but those who can see the bigger picture know otherwise.

  4. Keith Kleiner
    Keith Kleiner
    May 6, 2009

    Lonny,

    I respectfully, but strongly, disagree with your comments.

    First of all, the post does not claim that these robots represent major breakthroughs, nor that they require the resources and ability of a Dean Kamen to create. In fact, that is exactly the point! 6 years ago we needed Dean Kamen to make stair climbing robots that worked well, now people are creating robots that can do this all over the world, in several different ways, some more sophisticated than others, but all functional. This represents a “sea change” in robotics that I think you are failing to see.

    Robots today are doing surgery, serving drinks, performing synchronized dancing, and yes, even climbing stairs today. These achievements were either non-existent or found only in the realms of the Dean Kamen’s only 5-10 years ago. Now individuals can make robots that do these things in their garages with limited resources. How can you not recognize that this is an amazing advancement?

    The advance of robots is not represented by a single major breakthrough…it is instead the culmination of millions of incremental improvements that are happening on a daily basis. While people like you are asleep at the wheel claiming that robots are not improving, those who step back and look at the big picture know that the real story is that robots are improving and adapting with alarming speed.

    As a final comment, I will note that you are mixing AI and robotics interchangeably, as if they are the same thing, but they are not. Coincidentally, the same story that we are seeing in robotics is indeed occurring with AI. Most people, you included no doubt, will claim that AI has not made any advances in the last decade, but those who can see the bigger picture know otherwise.

  5. Peter Sandilands
    May 6, 2009

    I agree with Keith here and just want to give an example of excellent AI that is good enough that we don’t notice it at all: Google. Although it doesn’t emulate a human, it takes intelligence to wade through the pages of the internet and index them so as when someone searches for a query, in less than a second it can come back and give you almost always relevant information.

    This is also an example of lots of small improvements being unoticable by the general public, most would be hard push to tell you what changes Google has made in the last 5-10 years, yet there has been constant development going on improving the backend. Things are progressing and this makes me happy.

  6. Gabriel
    May 7, 2009

    For fast stair climbing you must see RHex:
    http://kodlab.seas.upenn.edu/RHex/Home

    I’ll try to find a video online.

  7. Gabriel
    May 7, 2009

    Ok, I found and online video of rhex climbing stairs:

    http://sandboxinnovations.com/index.php?leaf=12

    Best.

  8. Howard Barnes
    September 29, 2009

    It does solve the task of climbing stairs but only by virtue of dedicating its entire construction, no? If the principle which it embodies is abstracted further and condensed into a modular unit, perhaps it could then be integrated with a fully-functional robot?

  9. Howard Barnes
    September 29, 2009

    It does solve the task of climbing stairs but only by virtue of dedicating its entire construction, no? If the principle which it embodies is abstracted further and condensed into a modular unit, perhaps it could then be integrated with a fully-functional robot?

Leave a Reply

You must be to post a comment.

Back to top
mobile desktop