Thursday, April 12, 2007
Italy's New Robots
There are more than one million “old” generation robots, the ones working in industry around the world: 350,000 in Japan alone, 326,000 in Europe. In Italy for every 10,000 people working in industrial jobs, there are more than 100 robots, a number that makes Italy a world leader in this sector. And the prices of robots continue to fall. A robot bought in 2007 can cost only a fourth of what the same robot sold for in 1990.
This is a summary of the lead paragraph in a La Repubblica newspaper story today describing the 2007 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (http://www.icra07.org) underway this week in Rome. IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) is the world's leading professional association for the advancement of technology, according to its website, and has more than 370,000 members representing 160 countries. Microsoft Research is one of the conference's three major sponsors.
The theme of the five-day event is titled “Ubiquitous Robotics.” The La Repubblica article describes the purpose of the conference – to explore the presence of automatons in our society and the possibilities for applications in widely diverse areas – and discusses a surprising development in robotics evolution. That is the overturning of a previous assumption that robots would never be able to fully imitate human beings. Some proof of this is now occurring in Italy where in some villages along the Amalfi coast there are robots working as artisans.
“They are at work in the area between Vietri and Cava dei Tirreni, where they imitate master ceramicists,” the article quotes Bruno Siciliano, president of the Società Internazionale di Robotica e Automazione, as saying. “This is possible because an optical system has recorded the brush strokes of the artisans, each different naturally from the other, and is the basis of a program that gives the robots the capability to create tiles, each different from the other.”
As the robots develop, become more complex and take on greater similarity to humans, according to the article, there is also a greater need to develop ethical standards in this field. Discussions of this important aspect of robotics is also on the conference schedule.
by Rebecca Helm-Ropelato
Copyright © Rebecca Helm-Ropelato