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article imageWhy robots may soon be delivering your pizza

By Leigh Goessl     Jun 4, 2012 in Technology
Driverless cars are coming close to entering the consumer market, demonstrating a real probability machines can take over typical tasks humans perform. Could robots that handle everyday jobs, such as pizza deliveries, be far behind?
Over the years, many science fiction writers have developed some cool technology as a part of their story lines, and as tech progresses, many of these once far-fetched visualizations are steadily coming to life.
Decades ago, who would have thought the world would be so seamlessly connected through wired, never mind wireless, technology, or that driverless cars would be invented in our lifetime?
According to Mike Elgan, in his Computerworld piece, pizza delivery robots are probably not going to be far behind.
Elgan describes the rapid progression of driverless cars. Digital Journal reported recently the state of Nevada had approved autonomous vehicles and, according to Elgan, it looks like California and other states are likely soon to follow.
Lawmakers are currently requiring humans to be present in the driver's seat, but many speculate this is only temporary until people are trusting of this latest breakthrough in both technology and the laws allowing it.
Elgan writes, "Eventually, it will be so clear to everyone that the computer is safer without the human driver, that truly driverless cars will be legalized."
So, what's that all got to do with pizza?
Elgan elaborates, writing:
"A self-driving car is simply a robot with sensors for perceiving location, orientation, roads, traffic lights, obstacles, and other factors and a computer brain to manage all that sensor information and make decisions about how and where to move the vehicle. The "body" of that robot happens to be a passenger car. But that same technology could be easily built into a Segway-like robot, or a wagon or a cart or a humanoid robot."
Elgan points out driverless cars are just beyond the consumer market's horizon, and moving closer.
"A couple years after that, the robot brains that control those cars will be installed in all kinds of purpose-built rolling "bodies." They'll move around in the world, running errands for us and delivering things to us," he adds.
Looking at it this way, autonomous cars are the progressive step as artificial intelligence rapidly progresses and, according to a recent study, 1 in 5 people are already open to the idea of allowing robot cars take over driving duties. Not a bad start considering autonomous cars are not even on the consumer market yet; societal acceptance of action-taking robots is entirely probable.
Digital Journal reported in April how a robot was created with real 'muscles' to help scientists study humans. This perhaps lends credence to the idea of the more scientists understand the similarities, the better they can bridge the differences to make robots more 'human'.
Society has already been interacting with computer controlled "people." Consider how common it is to have automated customer service "representatives" when you call companies, such as your utility company or bank. These robo reps are much "smarter" in 2012 than they were even a few years ago. These days people easily communicate with computers on the phone with almost seamless interaction. No more pushing buttons needed to access information, people simply talk, and the computer answers. Pizza delivery robots is simply an extension of the idea of allowing machines to do the work.
The fantasies science fiction is rooted in are no longer a flight of the imagination. Someday when you pick up that phone to dial a pizza, you might just be able to let your robot do it for you. Or, consequently, your pizza parlor may just send a robot out in a driverless car, and subsequently bring it to your door.
Although, hopefully, robots won't be making the pizza. In some regions its already hard to get a good slice without the right know-how. On the plus side, for those humans perhaps indulging in too much pizza and not getting the same amount of exercise one's robot is getting, robot doctors are also on the horizon to help check things out, and fix where needed.
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