In the not too distant future, when every home has a robot in the way that (almost) every home has a television set today, those robots will most probably communicate with their manufacturers, and also with each other, through the Cloud.
The thought of this both intrigues and concerns me. I decided to write down some of both the good and bad things that came into my head this evening. This is by no means an extensive list, I am sure there are far worse things that could happen when a robot is let loose in your home without proper controls!
Good things that your robot can learn to do when connected to the cloud:
- Save you money by giving you free hair cuts or hair styling (if you’re brave enough!)
- Save you money by giving you free dental care (certainly again, only if you’re brave enough!)
- Your robot will know how to fix a dripping tap for you, or how to repair your computer, well the list is endless really. I know we could learn how to do these things ourselves, but it is a lot easier to ask the robot to do it
- The robot will be able to check your central heating and report back to the gas company saving you an engineer’s visit and making your service contract less expensive
- The robot can sweep up the leaves in the garden without getting back ache, and if you do manage to get a back ache (probably because you are sitting around doing very little exercise), then the robot can learn how to massage you back to fitness
- The robot will know when your bills are due for payment, and will even advise you on the best way of saving money, so no reason to visit the bank manager
Bad things that could happen:
- Your robot might get a virus (similar to a computer virus) and either fail or act strangely
- Your robot may inadvertently spy on you and share things with other robots that you don’t really want to leave your home . . . the robot is always watching, waiting for instructions, and possibly recording everything he, she or it sees
- Your robot will know your financial situation and may report more than you want your bank to know
- Your robot may be too busy working for other members of your household to do the things that you want it to do . . . and you will have to do them yourself!
An example of robots collaborating through the Cloud:
The following video, published on 29th July 2014, summarises the RoboEarth final demonstrator. The demonstrator includes four robots collaboratively working together to help patients in a hospital. These robots used RoboEarth in the following ways:
1. a knowledge repository to share and learn from each others’ experience,
2. a communication medium to perform collaborative tasks, and
3. a computational resource to offload some of their heavy computation.
The video that follows is enough to put anyone off letting a robot near their hair. It was filmed over two years ago, and that is a long time in robotics, so hopefully things have progressed somewhat since then.