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[DPRG] Robots in te news

Subject: [DPRG] Robots in te news
From: David P. Anderson dpa at io.isem.smu.edu
Date: Fri Nov 2 14:28:49 CST 2001

Hi All

I think this is a silly argument.  All the robot builders I know,
autonomous and R/C, work really hard on some very difficult problems.
One is not intrinsically harder or easier than the other.

Battle Bot builders get dis'd all the time by builders of autonomous
robots for not building "real" robots and therefore implying in some
way illegitimacy.  What a bunch of horse-hocky!  

The problem is, as Mike pointed out earlier, we use the same word,
"robot," to mean different things.  And folks who have a lot of time
and money invested in their definition tend to get defensive.  But it's
really just a problem of definitions.  I wish we had another term. 
"Golem" also seems a bit condescending.

I fly radio control airplanes.  I've even flown combat against others.
It's a lot of fun.  I've spent a lot of time and money on it.  (I'm
pretty good, he said modestly!)  But we don't call them robots.   What's
the difference?

My sons and I also race electric R/C cars.  Loads of fun.  (I'm not so
good, he blushed)  But we don't call them robots either.  Why not?  

Seems like battle bots have more in common with the R/C cars and airplanes
than with autonomous machines deprived of the guiding hands and brains of
a human.  Battle bots, like other R/C devices, strike me as a very sophisticated
class of puppets.  There's a human being on the other end.  That's what makes
puppets different from robots, right?

So it seems like it comes down to behavior.  Intelligent behavior from
a remote-controlled device is expected.  We know there is a human in the
driver's seat.  Intelligent behavior from an autonomous robot is not
expected.  Hoped for but not expected.  :)  Almost any interaction with the
environment qualifies as success.   "Look!  It actually came back and stopped
at the starting line! Wow!"  Nobody is particularly impressed if a battle bot
does that.

When most people hear the word they think of R2D2 and C3P0, or "Danger! Will
Robinson!"  These are not real robots but very fancy remote controlled
puppets.  That's why they seems so "human-like."  They are humans.  Same with
robot wars.  Even our vision of what a future robot might be is colored by puppetry.

I'd personally reserve the word "robot" for autonomous devices.  Cruise
missles.  Non-puppets.  If there is a human in the loop doing the guiding 
then it's a "Remotely Piloted Vehicle."  

Ok, how about this: "Tonight on Comedy Central: Killer Destructo Puppets."  

"It's Puppet Fightin' Time!"

Just doesn't have the same ring...

warmest regards,
dpa


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