Introductions to 10 robots modeled on the human body, with thoughts on their current and future uses.
Pepper, a robot designed by a Japanese firm “to provide companionship,” is the only one of the gallery that is currently being produced rather than in a prototype stage. The other nine are mostly built for emergency or industrial work, such as SAFFiR, a “Shipboard Autonomous Firefighting Robot”; Hubo, which can bend and also shift from legs to wheels; and Valkyrie, a NASA project intended for off-Earth work. For each, Becker offers very general physical specifications, a “Mission,” a brief description of its “Superpower,” and a bulleted list of possible applications. More generally, she also takes closer general looks at robotic hands, eyes, and other necessary components, glances at artificial intelligence and its corporeal cousin, embodied intelligence, and discusses the statistical “uncanny valley” or “ick factor” in observers’ reactions to robots that look almost but not quite human. She closes by floating the notion of robots’ rights, suggesting that it might already be too late to keep them from taking over the world. Depicted with glossy realism that fades at the bottom into sketches to show that they are mostly conceptual designs, Ries’ robots—particularly the ones with light- or dark-skinned human faces—stare inscrutably out at viewers.
Mostly speculative at this point, but the topic offers equal measures of promise and provocation. (index, resource list) (Nonfiction. 9-11)