Two interesting robot articles hit my RSS feed today. Though they’re not ‘intelligent’ robots, they do show some interesting characteristics.
First, a robot will throw out the first pitch today at the Phillies game. Now, a robot throwing pitches is not that strange; batting cages have been automated for as long as I can remember (not to date myself too much) and throw at a variety of speeds. Two things seem interesting about this robot, however: First, it’s mobile. Granted, it’s not bipedal (like some baseball hurling Terminator, thank goodness) but that might be a feature instead of a defect; bipeds are inherently unstable and creating a bipedal robot would be great for making it seem more human but otherwise wouldn’t make sense structurally. Considering the trouble most companies have teaching bipedal robots to walk, it’s unsurprising that a robot ‘slapped together’ over a few months has wheels (not to say that robots haven’t gotten much better at walking over the last few years.) The second interesting characteristic is that it’s throwing a pitch in the MLB. Batting cages are unexciting enough that we’ve never (to my knowledge) had a ‘pitching robot’ throw out the first pitch, and so this is a first of sorts. After seeing Watson on Jeopardy!, and now a robot throwing the first pitch in an MLB game, I wonder what other robot’s we’ll see in the media. Not too shabby for some engineers from Penn on short notice. I almost wish the umps would let this robot unleash it’s best pitch once before the game (or during the 7th, whatever.)
Second, and more traditionally robotic, a robot sculpts an aluminum (showpiece) motorcycle helmet out of a block of metal. Although this robot won’t be confused for human any time soon, it does showcase some amazing skills that robots have, even if they aren’t conscious. Here, a robot is crafting far more quickly, far more precisely, and far more intricately than any human would have been able to (particularly in the time that it does.) With a little conscious creativity, it seems like it could put out some artwork that shames its human counterparts.