In a Boston warehouse scientists have reached the final stages of creating a new breed of robot. BigDog is not your cute Hollywood R2-D2 kind of robot or a member of the household like Rosie the Robot from the Jetsons. Instead it's more like a four-legged mechanical mule created to lug equipment for U.S. foot soldiers.
BigDog is part of the ever-evolving quest to create robots that can assist humans on space missions, in combat and even when it comes to small tasks like doing laundry.
But in the final stages of robot research, builders say it is hard for machines to mimic seemingly simple, but actually quite complex tasks such as folding a towel. Robots can beat the world's greatest chess players, but have trouble "understanding" a towel and the multitude of ways that it can be folded.
And while scientists grapple with new approaches to robot mobility, a question of whether or not robots should be humanlike is being explored.
"The moment you make a robot in human form, and the moment it can make eye contact, track your motion and gesture toward you, you're kind of toast, because you believe that there is somebody home, in other words, a consciousness, even potentially something with feeling and that is like you," says Sherry Turkle, an author who has written about the influence of robots on society. She warns that society may be tempted to rely on robots to take care of elderly or disabled people.
As technology continues to evolve, it's certain that robots will become more prevalent within society--whether it's disassembling bombs or taking out the garbage.
"Robotic devices are everywhere, on assembly lines, disarming bombs, helping the disabled, even sucking up dust bunnies." --Miles O'Brien, NewsHour science correspondent
"For robots, it's really easy these days to do repeated motions very precisely. It's very hard to deal with variation like this, where, every time, it is looking at the towel and seeing something different." --Pieter Abbeel, UC-Berkeley scientist
1. What is a robot?
2. What are some useful tasks robots can do?
3. How do the movies portray robots? How far do you think technology is from the robots in movies?
1. According to the video, what are some robots being created for?
2. What are some ethical issues raised by robotics?
3. If you could build a robot, what would you have it do and why?
4. What will be the positive and negative impacts on society as robot technology is improved?