Welsh Scientist Wants Robot To Carry Olympic Torch in 2012

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iCub with law
James Law and iCub look to the future and the 2012 London Olympics.

Every parent wants the best for their child, and so it’s not terribly surprising that James Law might ask for his to receive the honor to the carry torch in the 2012 London Olympics. The only thing is that Law is a scientist and his “child” is a robot. A research associate in the computer science department at Aberyswyth University in Wales, Law and his colleagues work with iCub. The child-sized robot is designed to learn about its environment in the same way a toddler would – by looking, listening, and touching. You can see Law and his associates showing iCub off to the Associated Press in the video below. Meant as a fitting tribute to the 100th anniversary of the birth of Alan Turing, iCub carrying the Olympic Torch could also be a dramatic sign of Britain’s (and humanity’s) interest in the new era of personal robotics.

The iCub at Aberyswyth University is one of several distributed to academic institutions throughout Europe as part of an open source robotics project examining the development of cognition. The following interview was taken earlier this year as Law and his colleagues were beginning to explore the robot’s vast potential:

“2012 will mark the 100th anniversary of the birth on Alan Turing, the founder of computer science and a figurehead for the code breaking efforts of WWII. A robot torch bearer would be a fitting tribute to Alan Turing, and an inspiration to future generations of scientists and engineers.”
—James Law, Aberyswyth University 2011

There are many things in Law’s proposal that I absolutely love. First, as we’ve discussed before, iCub is a really neat robot. Teaching a machine to learn by letting it explore the world through its sense, just like a child does, is a wonderful idea. Giving tribute to Alan Turing, one of the pioneers of computer science, and a brilliant scientist is also a wonderful idea. (Especially considering how poorly Britain treated him towards the end of his life). Having a robot take center stage at the Olympics, an event that celebrates the determination and skill of humanity…well, that’s a bit cheeky, but still absolutely awesome. I really hope this proposal generates excitement in the UK and that Law’s wishes are fulfilled. And to all those who would object to the notion of having a machine invade the sanctity of the Olympics: there’s already going to be a cyborg there, why not a robot too?

C’mon, you know it would be cool.

[image credit: Aberyswyth University]

[source: Aberyswyth University]