Robotics

The idea of a robot embodies the ultimate goal of AI, and robots have been designed and built since AI's inception.

1. Moving, Sensing, and Reasoning

One feature of the early years of AI was that researchers did not appreciate the depth and difficulty of the problems they faced. Many early robotics systems were mobile machines with a variety ofsensors (vision, infrared, tactile, etc.). They were also supposed to analyze their situation and solve problems (such as how to traverse realistically cluttered rooms and corridors). They were conceived as crude simulations of complete humans with the hope that refinements and additions would improve the similarity year by year. This did not happen; instead, each component problem escalated into a full-blown subarea of AI.

2. Hand-Eye Systems

One common simplification of the robotics problem has been to construct hand-eye robots. These systems attempt to integrate visual processing and manipulation of the seen objects. This difficult task requires pattern recognition and some degree of image understanding to be integrated with fine motor control and tactile feedback.

Industrial companies such as automobile manufacturers employ a dazzling array of robotics systems but these include little or no AI. The elaborate welding systems are preset to weld at specific points in three-dimensional space. The problem of fast, accurate welding is then reduced to one of engineering the means by which the parts to be welded are moved to precisely the correct placement.

3. Cognitive Systems

Some of the most imaginative and ambitious work on AI robots is being done at one of the long-term bastions of AI. At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, research teams are developing various systems to implement cognitive robotic functions (e.g., an attentional system for social robots).

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