How Can Supposedly Safe Robots Ever Take Over? Give them knives!
If you are like me and have been sitting in front of your toaster thinking to yourself, "Toast is great and all, but if only it could grow arms and both punch and stab me," then you are in for a treat my friend.
At the 2010 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation held in Alaska researchers found that Robots were able to "inflict wounds that were lethal". Now, maybe I'm not qualified to fund research projects, but they could have saved all that money if they would've talked any child under five.
The research aimed to see just which weapons robots were best with by giving the robot arm, weighing about 30 pounds and measuring over 3 feet long, a variety of bladed household weapons including a steak knife, kitchen knife, scissors, and a screwdriver. The robot arm was then programmed to use the weapons to stab and cut a silicone lump, a leg from a dead pig and the arm of a human volunteer. That's right, a human volunteer.
The research is attempting to limit danger by using a safety system that can detect when the robot hits flesh of a different consistency, and thus limit the damage done. Researchers from the Institute of Robotics and Mechatronics at the German aerospace agency used torque sensors to spot when it has hit a different substance and halts movement.
In 1981, to kick off the robots' killing season, Kenji Urada, a 37-year-old Japanese factory worker, was carrying out some maintenance when he was accidentally pushed into a grinding machine by a powerful hydraulic robotic arm which was unable to detect him, making him the first ever recorded robot casualty.
Despite safety efforts, robots have claimed even more victims. Since 1981, people have been "crushed, hit on the head, welded and even had molten aluminium poured over them by robots. Last year there were 77 robot-related accidents in Britain alone," according to the Health and Safety Executive.
The German company DLR hopes to change this by making the robots more sensitive to our human presence. Or, they could be just teaching them how to kill us better. I for one think the final stage in this research should be teaching them kung-fu. If the technology isn't there yet maybe just watch this other DLR research project below.
I am confident this has moved the doomsday clock 1 more minute towards midnight.