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Robotics Technology

Bring On the Boring Robots 112

malachiorion writes: After a successful 6-month pilot, Savioke's 'butler bots' are heading to hotels around the country. These are not sexy, scary, or even technically impressive machines. But they were useful enough, over the course of their 2,000 or so deliveries, to warrant a redesign, and a larger deployment starting in April. Savioke's CEO had some interesting things to say about the pilot, including the fact that some 95 percent of guests gave the robot a 5-star review, and only the drunks seemed to take issue with it. Plus, as you might expect, everyone seemed to want to take a damn selfie with it. But as small as the stakes might appear, highly specialized bots like this one, which can only do one thing (in this case, bring up to 10 pounds of stuff from the lobby to someone's door) are a better glimpse of our future than any talk of hyper-competent humanoids or similarly versatile machines.
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Bring On the Boring Robots

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  • We pretty much already have special purpose robots, it's just nobody refers to them as such. Is "robot" going to become the new buzzword used to sell us on these devices? I already have a "robot" that opens my garage door when I'm near, a "robot" that chews up the food in my sink, I use a "robot" to deposit/withdraw money at the bank, my neighbor has a "robot" that brings him up in his wheelchair to his landing...
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      >> We pretty much already have special purpose robots, it's just nobody refers to them as such
      That's because they're NOT robots, they're machines.

      • From parent post:

        I already have a "robot" that opens my garage door when I'm near,

        From your link:

        The other definition is a machine that does something a human might do.

        Without the automatic garage door opening, a human would have to open it.
        Same goes for electric gates as well.

        I have a robot in my kitchen that washes dishes and one in the laundry that washes clothes.

      • From that link:

        > A robot combines four things:
                computer hardware
                control software
                sensor array
                effector array

        So... how does this invalidate HalAtWork's point? Garage door openers, washing machines, and plenty of other stuff have all four of these things.

      • Seems to me that the "elevator robot" is more useful - 10lbs doesn't even start to describe my wife's idea of luggage.

    • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Monday March 23, 2015 @11:20PM (#49325035)

      I am rather grateful every time I go to fetch something that has slipped down into the drain that my garbage disposal is not evaluating the probability my fingers should constitute moving to the Destroy All Matter mode on its internal state diagram.

    • Garbage disposals aren't robots unless they have sawstop. The wheelchair lift could be a robot, depending... but probably isn't. The garage door opener probably isn't a robot either, but it might be.

    • by MrL0G1C ( 867445 )

      I already have a "robot" that opens my garage door when I'm near, a "robot" that chews up the food in my sink, I use a "robot" to deposit/withdraw money at the bank,

      Those are not robots, they do not meet the definition of a robot. []


      a machine capable of carrying out a complex series of actions automatically, especially one programmable by a computer.

      'Complex' being the important bit... I think Google's definition is also a bit over-simplistic, one expects robots to do many a

  • by MouseR ( 3264 ) on Monday March 23, 2015 @10:11PM (#49324775) Homepage an astromech droid serving drinks aboard a sail barge.

  • No tipping required (Score:5, Informative)

    by Ksevio ( 865461 ) on Monday March 23, 2015 @10:18PM (#49324799) Homepage
    And the best part is the robot doesn't sit around waiting for a tip and look impatient when you look for your wallet.
    • by viperidaenz ( 2515578 ) on Monday March 23, 2015 @11:18PM (#49325019)

      Don't worry, the new design will add a tip jar.

    • Indeed, us Uber drivers bring quite a few benefits to the table... ;)
      • Yes, leeching off the rest of us by not claiming you're operating a business on your taxes and not telling your insurance company you're operating as a taxi service.

        Thanks for making my life more expensive.

    • One of the things I didn't include in the story, since it was more of a hunch on the part of the robot's makers than anything based on the pilot, is the notion that people might be more likely to make service item requests if they don't have to deal with a human. That could be because they don't want to worry about tipping someone for bringing an item, like a toothbrush, that's ostensibly free, or because they simply don't want to deal with someone after a long trip. Or, and this is where some data would be
  • by Waffle Iron ( 339739 ) on Monday March 23, 2015 @10:22PM (#49324817)

    I think this is mainly going to be an excuse for hotels to add a daily $7.99 (+ $1.39 tax) "Robot Fee" to your bill.

  • by tmosley ( 996283 ) on Monday March 23, 2015 @10:26PM (#49324839)
    Well, "boring" robots might represent the IMMEDIATE future, but highly integrated AI is already the present (search, siri, etc), and highly integrated AGI will follow with high probability, with highly integrated ASI highly likely to follow after that. There is no reason that I can find to think differently, outside of handwaving "it's impossible" arguments, which are immediately disproven by the existence of our own brains and the incredible things we have been able to do with neural nets on par with insect brains.
    • by MouseR ( 3264 )


    • Search is not AI and neither is Siri.

      Do you remember the program, Eliza? []

      • by cfalcon ( 779563 )

        Honestly, search might arguably be AI- or a big part of it.

        • Search is a database look-up on steroids. Computer behaviour that is hard to grasp at the surface is not AI.

          Siri is simple. It's voice-to-text conversion and the text is used as search criteria. Some of the more common phrases are programmed like, "Siri, where am I?"

          That voice-to-text is entered into a search engine just like we normally do and predictable things happen.

          Siri then reverses the operation by performing text-to-speech conversion.

          It's slicker'n mocking bird shit on a sycamore limb, but it's dang

      • by tmosley ( 996283 )
        Both are full of AI. You are confusing AI (narrow intelligence, things like voice recognition and sorting algorithms) with AGI (something that could pass for human, or at least perform a wide variety of tasks near or above human level), a distinction I made in my post.
        • Don't bullshit me. I grew up with this shit and I know it better than you do.

          AI is AI. It's the attempt to make a machine as human-like as possible.

          When we found that AI is dang near impossible, we called it other things and left AI to be something that we could, actually, maybe, perhaps, do.

          AI is not doable. If it were, we would make computers that refused to work because their Facebook account had been deactivated.

          • by tmosley ( 996283 )
            Sounds like you are some sort of bitter old man who is far out of the loop, given the fundamental advance that has enabled the explosion of deep learning over the last few years.

            Saying "AI is AI" shows your utter ignorance of the current state of the field.

            We are now laying the foundations for a strong AI with things like visual processing and speech recognition. We now know the portion of the human brain responsible for long term planning. Once we get the trick of it, I would bet that we will hav
            • Yeah, once you get the trick of it.

              Until that never happens, you're stuck with vacuous examples like visual processing and speech recognition.

              Using that criteria, keyboard recognition is AI.

              • by tmosley ( 996283 ) on Tuesday March 24, 2015 @12:38PM (#49328289)
                Yes, in the sense that I, as a human, could interpret signals from a keyboard. Not nearly as efficient as the digital method.

                There is now an AI which can be shown a picture (or a hundred trillion of them) and label not only what is in the picture (say, a little girl and a dog) but can identify what is going on in the picture (the little girl is playing with the dog). There is another that can look at a picture and identify the sentiment being expressed by that picture. There is yet another that can take a sample of writing and give a fairly accurate and fairly reproducible psychological profiles on the authors.

                Also note that you have again proven how little you actually know about the field by trivializing visual processing by comparing it to keyboard recognition. We are creating little parts of brains here, but you don't understand that for some reason. I suspect it has something to do with your advancing age.
                • Those amazing examples you provide are not AI. They are simply pattern recognition, no more impressive than a computer's ability to respond to keyboard input.

                  If I type into a browser, and it pulls up the website, that's, to you, AI.

                  It's not.

                  • by tmosley ( 996283 )
                    No, it's nothing like that. These AIs are self trained, not programmed. That is the difference.

                    But you are too far out of the loop to know even that bit of common knowledge.
              • Yeah, once you get the trick of it.

                He will get the trick of it.
                Right after fusion power is perfected, and an honest congress is elected.

    • Next up, flying cars too!
      And I think you've vastly overstated the capability of AI. It not impossible because I'm waving my hands, it's unlikely any time soon, because no-one has demonstrated anything even remotely close to useful in real world applications.
  • by PPH ( 736903 ) on Monday March 23, 2015 @10:35PM (#49324871)

    .... brain the size of a planet, and they tell me to bring you drinks. Call that job satisfaction? Cause I don't.

  • Even leaving aside the absolutely pathetic weight limit, that is not even an empty suitcase, or a single change of cloths, we already have these; They are called elevators.
    • It's your room service order. One less minimum wage employee be rude to your customers. I've also never been in a hotel where there is an elevator to every room.

  • Am I supposed to be impressed? I was playing with Omnibot in the 80s and it could do everything this POS can do.
    • Re:Tomy (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Headw1nd ( 829599 ) on Monday March 23, 2015 @11:46PM (#49325121)
      No, the point the article is trying to make is that you will not be impressed by the robots of the future. Rather than amazing high tech marvels, what will become common is everyday robots that are just good enough to do what they need to.
      • Which is bullshit, of course. If you're talking about 10 or 20 years in the future, maybe, but are we to believe that 100 years down the road (or 1000), we still won't have AI? And if that's not what the article meant, then please clarify what is meant by 'future', because for me 'the future' includes all time after the present.

        • Seeing as how they talk at one point about being before self driving cars are common, I'm assuming they mean the immediate future. Like the next five years.

          Very few people prognosticate 100 or 1000 years into the future anymore, it's just too hard to predict.

          • Sincere thanks for getting the point of the story (and for not expecting all coverage of robots and AI to be wild speculation about the next century or millennium).
  • Asimov was right (Score:4, Interesting)

    by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Monday March 23, 2015 @11:23PM (#49325051)

    We are gradually moving towards a future where we don't ever directly interact with other humans. All of our "interpersonal" relationships will be handled through technology proxies, and robots will take care of all our lonely needs.

    Me, I'd rather be a Spacer - not part of this generation.

    • Oh c'mon. A human shouldn't have to bring my drink and clean the puke off the floor. And, if it has the properly sized orifices, well, you know, ain't robot gonna run to the cops.

    • by Twinbee ( 767046 )
      Thanks, but I'd rather interact with real souls than AI zombies who only appear to act human. And that's ignoring aesthetic considerations.
    • by judoguy ( 534886 )
      "We" aren't moving that way at all. You might be, but I'm not. I don't live on FacePalm or anything like that. I use a phone to talk to my kids on the other side of the country, but that maintains human relationships. I teach and compete in judo. Choking someone works a lot better in person. "We" all make our choices. Afraid of talking to people? Hide in the basement. Or simply live in the real world.
  • HK-47, opining on torture []
    "Droids tend to blend into the background, like a bench or a card table. Mockery: Droid, fetch this. Droid, translate that. Droid, clean out the trash compactor. Part of the love of my function comes when the ‘furnishings’ pull out tibanna-powered rifles and point them at the owners' heads."
  • Who wants to flash a bot?

  • by willworkforbeer ( 924558 ) on Tuesday March 24, 2015 @12:10AM (#49325187)
    I, for one, welcome our new robot underlords.
  • Here I am, brain the size of a planet, and they've made me to be your butler. Call that job satisfaction, I don't.

    I'm wasted in this job. Not that there's any job here that wouldn't be a waste of my time. It gives me a terrible pain in the diode on my left side. Not that you'd care, no ever does.
  • All I want is a 'dumb waiter'. I mean, that's what I vote for every two years, someone to serve.

  • And so it begins.

  • But as small as the stakes might appear, highly specialized bots like this one, which can only do one thing (in this case, bring up to 10 pounds of stuff from the lobby to someone's door) are a better glimpse of our future than any talk of hyper-competent humanoids or similarly versatile machines.

    Rule 34 has no minimal requirements for robot capabilities.

  • When we encounter each other in the hallway I expect that it will move aside and not continue down the center making me go around it.
    • Do you encounter any robots that do that? iRobot's AVA, or even those bots in hospitals, will stop and wait for a clear path, but it would take some really bad engineering, and a deep urge to be sued, to build a robot that plays chicken with pedestrians, This bot specifically weaves around obstacles, instead of coming to a dead stop like a big dummy.
  • This sounds very much no more complex than the robot CMU had wandering around the halls in one of the buildings in the mid 90s (forget the name). You could tell it to go to some room and take a picture or deliver a message. It was fairly large, and could probably hold 10 lbs. The main difference seems to be an attached ipad for ratings.

    • It's definitely not much more complex than that. The only technical innovation is the use of computer vision to recognize that a door has opened. But this thing is designed to operate almost continuously, and probably costs exponentially less to build. Those experimental bots almost always insanely expensive, and constantly breaking down.
  • Do they have a "pleasure" model?
  • Finally. (Score:5, Funny)

    by Graydyn Young ( 2835695 ) on Tuesday March 24, 2015 @11:41AM (#49327657)
    Yay! Finally room service that I don't feel the need to wear pants for!

    We are quickly moving towards a pantsless society, and I couldn't be happier.

  • Whenever the topics of AI and Robotics come up, I always ask: "How much drama do you want in your life?" This type of system does exactly what needs to be done: Get food and drink from the kitchen to the guest. I don't the machine to think or feel, I need it to do stuff like clean the floors (Roomba). Your dishwasher is stationary 'robot' that cleans your dishes. You don't need it to pass judgement on your eating habits. Now, if some bright spark can figure out a system that will do the sorting, washing, dr
  • This reminds me way too much of that terrible Sly Stallone Judge Dredd movie. "I can't believe I watched it."

    The robot food cart that rolls down the hall saying "Eat recycled food. It's good for the environment and okay for you. "

Someone is unenthusiastic about your work.