Robots That Jump

Robot Bodies Needed Before Robot Minds

Robots That Jump – Historical May 17, 2004

Monday, May 17, 2004

Why cellphones are hastening the arrival of robots that jump
One of the so-called ‘next big things’ that keeps coming up is wireless technology – computers and phones. Cellphones have indeed become smaller, lighter, and more capable – some Japanese systems now have 2-megapixel cameras attached. Tech pundits celebrate the arrival of 24/7 communication via this wireless technology.

But these celebrations miss the growing movement against cellphones. Several forces are currently conspiring to outlaw cellphones practically everywhere you look:

1. School – Students are increasingly being caught using cellphones to cheat, for example taking pictures of a test they are taking and sending them to their friends. This adds to the general concern about cellphones distracting from classtime.

2. Driving – The movement to ban cellphones while driving is continuing to gain steam. Most likely, in a few short years it will be illegal to use a cellphone while driving unless ‘hands free’ everywhere, and even ‘hands free’ is likely to be restricted. Can’t be inforced? Nope. Cameras at intersections are taking pictures of drivers all over the US. It won’t be long until a camera will take your picture and the license plate of your car and auto-generate a moving violations ticket. With most state in the US running serious budget shortfalls this is a no-brainer.

3. Near train and plane stations – Fear of terrorist activity (the bombs in the Madrid train attack were set off by cellphone) is causing authorities to jam cellphones at airports, train stations, and anywhere else where there is potential for attack. These areas are about anywhere.

4. Gyms and public facilities – Use of cellphone cameras to take pictures in the potty and locker rooms is likely to cause either a ban on cellphones or jamming in gyms and other public areas. You won’t be able to call someone from a restroom, for example.

5. Hacking – Wireless systems are still hack-fests and protocols like Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are like swiss cheese when it comes to security. One major hack attempt through these systems (or an IM or text-messaging based attack on wireless doggers in the UK) will stop the spread of this technology.

The end result of this is that cellphones are going to be restricted – right after their use became widespread. There will be strong pressure to figure out a way to allow connecting wirelessly. What can be done?

The answer is robots. Consider a cellphone user in their car. The reason you can’t use a cellphone is that it distracts you from driving. But what if you would switch on a robotic cruise control and have your car drive itself for a few minutes? Robot cars have been driving just fine since about 1998 on specialized environments like freeways. At some point, automakers will introduce systems that allow a robot to take over and let the driver use their precious cellphone. It might even be an either/or system – turn on the cellphone and the robot takes over your steering.

The perfect solution…robots that jump!


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