Why do we think we need several robots in our house when all we really need is one?
Whenever I think about the unbelievable change computers have brought to our lives, and how our entire society has changed thanks to the power of computing, I’m constantly reminded of one specific scene in “Star Trek”. Admittedly, it’s not a very notable scene, and nothing exciting is happening on screen, yet I find it absolutely fascinating. In this scene, which takes place during the show's first season, Captain Kirk and his crew need to chart a course toward some unknown star system. Of course, being a Sci-Fi show, the Captain and his team use a computer to help them chart the course, but because the show was written and filmed in the 1960s, they had to imagine how computers would work in the future. One thing they got right was the voice activation part - Captain Kirk says, “Computer,” and the computer springs into action. And when the captain asks the computer a question, it answers in a monotone, somewhat human voice. However, what they got hilariously wrong was the fact that every station on the ship had a separate computer, which didn't communicate with all the other stations. So Kirk would ask the library computer a question and then relay that information verbally to the navigation computer. Essentially, Kirk would carry on a conversation with a group of computers that could not communicate with each other. In later seasons the ship would suddenly have just one central computer that could be accessed from anywhere on the ship.
All this makes me wonder whether we are looking at robots in the same way that the show writers looked at computers. We know the robots are nearly here, and we can imagine what a world full of robots can look like but are we thinking about them the same wrong way? Are we imagining several robots doing several different jobs instead of one robot doing all of them?
A Vaccum cleaning robot, a lawn mowing robot, a home monitoring robot, a window cleaning robot. Will the people of the near future look back at us and laugh at how we perceive robots? What if the answer isn’t a collection of tiny robots independently working around the house, and instead, it’s one robot capable of doing all these different jobs? This seems to make much more sense. I mean, a vacuum cleaning robot wakes up when it's programmed to, cleans the house, and goes back to doing nothing until the next time it is needed, sometimes for a few days. Meanwhile, the lawn mowing robot can sit in the garage doing absolutely nothing for a few weeks at a time, and a window cleaning robot can sit in storage for who knows how long until you decide the windows got too dirty.
Wouldn’t it make more sense to have a robot capable of doing all these different tasks, working all day and resting only when it needs to charge? This type of robot could be connected to your smart home system, and the second you walk out the door, it could spring into action. It could grab the vacuum cleaner and start cleaning every rug in your house. When done, it can grab a mop and clean the floors; after that, it could do the windows, wash the dishes, put toys away, load up the laundry, clean the toilets and even bring in packages or the groceries you ordered. It can work for hours on keeping the house clean and tidy, and when you get back home, it has already set the table for you and is there to grab your bag or purse for you to put it in its place. And hey, maybe it even brings you your slippers and a nice cup of tea. Why not?
This might sound a bit far-fetched to you, or as a scenario at least twenty years away, but this reality is much closer than you might think. In fact, a robot like this is precisely what Unlimited Robotics is working on right now. A fully autonomous, extremely versatile robot capable of doing everything we just discussed. With the unbelievable leaps we are making in machine learning, Artificial intelligence, and object recognition, This futuristic vision of a singular robot butler is inching its way toward reality. Suddenly the idea of several tiny robots, each doing their own thing, is becoming as ridiculous as the different computers depicted in the first season of “Star Trek”. Even Tesla, one of the biggest companies in the world, making a fortune from selling electric vehicles, has announced that it is also throwing its hat into the robot butler ring. They even promise a working prototype as early as September of this year.
There is no doubt that the future will be robotic. Humans have fantasized about this for years, and it is finally happening. Right now, small companies are making small robots for specific tasks around the house, but the future we envision, here at Unlimited Robotics and also as the human race, is a future where larger, much more sophisticated robots share our lives and our homes, taking care of all our household chores and making our lives easier—freeing us from doing what we must to do what we want, like spending more time together and doing what brings us joy and fulfillment. And you might think that this sounds like a bit of an exaggeration, but that is only because you grew up in a world where we have a machine that cleans our clothes instead of having to go to the river to wash them, and a machine that takes us from place to place instead of having to walk or ride a horse. Technology has already made our lives much, much easier, and it has already freed us to focus more on the things we love and make us happy; And now it’s going to do that again, thanks to Robots.
Or, to quote the great Captain Kirk, Robots will allow us “to boldly go where no man has gone before.”