Technology moves at breakneck speed, and we now have more power in our pockets than we had in our homes in the 1990s. Artificial intelligence (AI) has been a fascinating concept of science fiction for decades, but many researchers think we’re finally getting close to making AI a reality. NPR notes that in the last few years, scientists have made
For many seniors, everyday life is a struggle, and many have to hire outside help to manage their care, or rely on family members. AI is at a stage where replacing this need isn’t too far off, says Matthew Taylor, computer scientist at Washington State University. Home robots could help seniors with everyday tasks and allow them to stay independent and in their homes for as long as possible, which improves their overall well-being.
One of the main limitations of being human is simply our own bodies—and brains. Researcher Shimon White son thinks that in the future, we will be able to augment ourselves with computers and enhance many of our own natural abilities. Though many of these possible cyborg enhancements would be added for convenience, others might serve a more practical purpose. Yolky Matura of Nest believes that AI will become useful for people with amputated limbs, as the brain will be able to communicate with a robotic limb to give the patient more control.
We’re already seeing the beginnings of self-driving cars, though the vehicles are currently required to have a driver present at the wheel for safety. Despite these exciting developments, the technology isn’t perfect yet, and it will take a while for public acceptance to bring automated cars into widespread use. Google began testing a self-driving car in 2012, and since then, the U.S. Department of Transportation has released definitions of different levels of automation, with Google’s car classified as the first level down from full automation.
Who wouldn’t want a friend like C-3PO? At this stage, most robots are still emotionless and it’s hard to picture a robot you could relate to. However, a company in Japan has made the first big steps toward a robot companion—one that can understand and feel emotions. Introduced in 2014, “Pepper” the companion robot went on sale in 2015, with all 1,000 initial units selling out within a minute. The robot was programmed to read human emotions, develop its own emotions, and help its human friends stay happy.
Robots are already taking over some of the most hazardous jobs available, including bomb defusing. These robots aren’t quite robots yet, according to the BBC. They are technically drones, being used as the physical counterpart for defusing bombs, but requiring a human to control them, rather than using AI. Whatever their classification, they have saved thousands of lives by taking over one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. As technology improves, we will likely see more AI integration to help these machines function.