How robots will invade our lives

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TED – In this prophetic talk from 2003, roboticist Rodney Brooks talks about how robots are going to work their way into our lives — starting with toys and moving into household chores … and beyond.

Rodney Brooks builds robots based on biological principles of movement and reasoning. In other words, instead of one giant HAL brain, he might build a swarm of small robots that use trial-and-error to develop intelligence. And it works.

MIT professor Rodney Brooks studies and engineers robot intelligence, looking for the holy grail of robotics: the AGI, or artificial general intelligence. For decades, we’ve been building robots to do highly specific tasks — welding, riveting, delivering interoffice mail — but what we all want, really, is a robot that can figure things out on their own, the way we humans do. (And being able to move around independently would be handy too.)

Brooks realized that a top-down approach — just building the biggest brain possible and teaching it everything we could think of — would never work. What would work is a robot who learns like we do, by trial-and-error, and with many separate parts that learn separate jobs.The thesis of his work is captured in a paper that went on to become the title of the great Errol Morris documentary on Brooks and three others: Fast, Cheap and Out of Control.

A founder of iRobot, makers of the Roomba vacuum, Brooks recently left that company to start a new firm, Heartland Robotics. Heartland’s mission is to apply advanced robotic intelligence to manufacturing and physical labor. At MIT, Brooks is affiliated with CSAIL, MIT’s Computers Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.

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