10 Machines That Have Taken On Important Human Roles

The idea behind a "cyborg life" is that we look to machines to take on critical, physical roles. These 10 machines illustrate how we have already begun passing the torch on tasks we are getting to lazy to do ourselves.

Remember handwriting? We have all but abandoned it, but the torch is being taken up by robots like Kuka, who has been put to work writing out copies of the Martin Luther bible. [BotJunkie]

Developed by Aberystwyth University and the University of Cambridge, Adam the robot was the first machine to independently discover new knowledge.

Using artificial intelligence, Adam hypothesised that certain genes in baker's yeast code for specific enzymes which catalyse biochemical reactions in yeast. The robot then devised experiments to test these predictions, ran the experiments using laboratory robotics, interpreted the results and repeated the cycle.

The results of the experiment were later replicated and confirmed by a team of human scientists. So, it appears that computers are not only doing our calculations, but they have begun thinking for us as well. [Scientific Blogging and Gizmodo]

Are you lactose intolerant? Do you have frequent heartburn or constipation? Perhaps one day your defective digestion system could be replaced with a more advanced version of the Cloaca machine. This thing simulates actual human digestion and, in the end, produces a turd you would be proud of. [Cloaca via Gizmodo]

Dishwashers have been around for decades, but we still have to physically put the dishes into the machine. This is completely unacceptable. Panasonic's robot takes care of the entire cleaning process from start to finish. [Gizmodo]

Seriously, what don't smartphones do for us these days? At the most basic level, these phones are how we communicate, how we entertain ourselves and how we gather information. Thanks to apps, smartphones are taking on even greater roles — like helping us keep our girlfriends happy without actually having to do any work. Girlfriend Keeper sends automatic texts and emails to your significant other depending on the intensity of your relationship. [Girlfriend Keeper]

If you are tired of your co-workers being promoted over you, just wait until a robot becomes your new boss. JAST or the "Teamworkbot" has the ability to observe and mimic human behaviour. As you will see in this video, JAST already knows how to complete the task, so it observes the human's actions, anticipates his next move and dresses him down when he gets it wrong. [Gizmodo]

I'm pretty sure that allowing robots to take a critical role in surgery qualifies as crossing a Rubicon with respect to our level of trust in machines. The Da VInci robot enables a surgeon sitting at a console to control movements and equipment with greater precision — resulting in a procedure that is minimally invasive. [Wikipedia]

It's only a matter of time before technology becomes advanced enough to allow lazy parents to turn over the duties of child-rearing to robots. In fact, it's already happening in Japan where robots like Tmsuk babysit kids in shopping centres thanks to RFID badges. They even have robot teachers like Saya that terrify elementary schoolchildren into doing their work.

The Affective Intelligent Driving Agent (AIDA) was developed by MIT to help drivers navigate, bitch about their driving when necessary and keep them company on long trips.

"When it merges knowledge about the city with an understanding of the driver's priorities and needs, AIDA can make important inferences," explains Assaf Biderman, associate director of the SENSEable City Lab. "Within a week AIDA will have figured out your home and work location. Soon afterwards the system will be able to direct you to your preferred grocery store, suggesting a route that avoids a street fair-induced traffic jam. On the way AIDA might recommend a stop to fill up your tank, upon noticing that you are getting low on gas," says Biderman. "AIDA can also give you feedback on your driving, helping you achieve more energy efficiency and safer behaviour."

[MIT via Gizmodo]

While the AIDA robot helps you navigate, there are plenty of engineers working on cars that do all of the driving for you. Chevy's "Boss" Tahoe is one of the higher profile projects that have come out in recent years, winning the DARPA Urban Challenge in 2007 after successfully navigating a 100km course littered with obstacles. [Technology Review]

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