They’re stronger, faster, transformier and less fall asleepier, making robots fierce competitors indeed. But humans are still pretty amazing creatures, with hearts and eyeballs the ability to build robots. Let’s put them in the ring together and see how they compare in the fields of medicine, music, sports, and…
Aside from being one of three bowlers to ever win both the Rookie of the Year Award and the Player of the Year Award, Chris Barnes has won 12 Professional Bowlers Association (PBA) titles, rolling 40 perfect games over the course of his 12-year career. He is one of the best trick-shot bowlers in the PBA, and he can bowl with both hands.
But can he defeat EARL, the Enhanced Automated Robot Launcher ? EARL is used to determine specs and certification for the United States Bowling Congress; it can throw balls between 10 and 24 mph, and can spin that ball between 50 and 900 rpms with each throw.
Despite his loss to the talented Barnes, EARL is no stranger to bowling a perfect 300 game, and he NEVER goes over the line!
This month marks the world’s first completely robotic surgery, which took place at the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) in Montreal, Canada. The first ever all-robot prostatectomy was the successful collaboration of two robots: an automated anesthesia delivery system nicknamed McSleepy, and a multi-“handed” surgical robot known as DaVinci.
Anesthesiologists are the highest paid of the medical professionals, as their skills make all levels of surgeries possible. According to Dr. Tim Hemmerling from the MUHC’s Department of Anesthesia, “McSleepy guarantees the same high quality of care every time it is used, independent from the subjective level of expertise. It can be configured exactly to the specific needs of different surgeries.”
Although the robots are capable of repeating extremely delicate procedures with incredible precision they are both controlled and configured by human doctors. Dr. Hemmerling adds “Robots will not replace doctors but help them to perform to the highest standards.”
Humans and Robots Tie!
Three years ago, Toyota Motor unveiled a robot of such delicate and precise dexterity that it could play the violin. This robot is the company’s response to Japan’s aging population and it’s lack of adequate medical staff. For more on these efforts you read here.
But in both the medical and the musical fields, can emotions and the human touch ever be replaced with circuits and gears? Alex Depue has been studying the violin since the age of five, winning his first major competition at age ten. He has continued to wow audiences the world over both a guest soloist and with orchestras.
Alex clearly blows Toyota’s robot out of the water, but I wouldn’t count robots as down and out . Ryan Nikolaidis, a PhD student at the Georgia Tech Center for Music Technology, has programmed a marimba-playing robot named Shimon. At first glance Shimon appears to be little more than a 4-armed version of the door-answering droid from Jabba’s palace in Return of the Jedi . But Shimon (meaning “one who hears” in Hebrew) not only recognizes, acknowledges and bops his head with the other musicians, but he can interpret the music he “hears”, analyze its structure and improvise right along with the rest of the band.
We are of course a long way off from our first robots vs humans soccer game, so this category will be based on overall entertainment value. In one corner we have the highest paid Swedish player ever, who holds the title of “Best Soccer Goal Ever” on Youtube, Zlatan Ibrahimović.
And in the other corner we have the little robots from the Kondo Cup, a soccer game held every two months at ROBOSPOT.
At the risk of offending any human soccer fans out there, I will say that without a fraction of a doubt, robot soccer is an infinitely more entertaining sport. Did you see those little buggers stand up? Amazing.
Up until this point it has been all fun and games. But how do humans stand up to the machines when it comes to war? Replacing human soldiers with robots has been under development since World War II, and has been the plot to countless science fiction films, whereby the robots somehow gain consciousness and take over the world. Believe it or not, this is a legitimate fear in the debate over the ultimate replacement of humans in warfare. From unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to remote controlled ground vehicles, there are currently over 8000 robots on active military duty around the world as we speak. Most of these are the Foster-Miller Talon, a small Short-Circuit-looking robot which is considered to be the fastest ground robot in production. It defuses bombs, can climb stairs, travel through water, sand and in snow up to 100 feet deep, and can work in whatever contaminated areas humans are unable to work.
To repeat what’s been said in this clip, according to Major Kenneth Rose of the US Army’s Training and Doctrine Command “Machines don’t get tired. They don’t close their eyes. They don’t hide under trees when it rains and they don’t talk to their buddies … A human’s attention to detail on guard duty drops dramatically in the first 30 minutes … Machines know no fear.” Machines are also more efficient when it comes to reaction times. There’s an automated counter-artillery robot being used in Afghanistan which can react and shoot down a canon shell in mid-air. “The human reaction time when there’s an incoming canon shell is basically we can get to mid-curse word.”
Despite the many arguments that human soldiers have instincts that robots lack, as well as the ability to distinguish enemies from innocent civilians, robots are tireless, fearless and most importantly, lifeless.