Of machines and men

I recently went to Level 39 in Canary Wharf and got the opportunity to drive the ‘robot’ in that office. I say robot, but it’s actually a Beam Smart Presence System which allows the controller to remotely manoeuvre a man-sized robot via laptop – check out the video here.

My face was on the robot’s screen and I was driving it around an office, remotely. If you had stacked some drinks and snacks under the screen, I could have brought them to each person in that office and had a chat with them (maybe even asked them to pay).

I didn’t realise it at the time but it’s the same robot that Edward Snowden used to participate in a TED talk in the US… Whilst he was sat in Russia. Maybe those watching didn’t realise what they were seeing either – given a wifi connection, Ed could have trundled away to hang out with his friends (maybe he’s doing so now).

I watched the re-make of the Robocop movie the other day, and the premise is that the US public could not accept a fully robotic cop and so preferred a human’s brain/face to control the robotic body.

Maybe it would have been easier to use a ‘Beamed’ human cop onto the robot body. Likely wouldn’t have been as exciting a story 🙂

It does bring some interesting questions to mind about remote working and the nature of robots. Popular culture has us thinking that a ‘true’ robot would have an artificial intelligence – but what if it’s easier or more likely to have robots ‘powered by human minds’? Say you lived in a corner of the world with internet but no jobs – would you take a job working as a waiter in another country? And would you be allowed, or would you need a work visa? If you spilled a hot coffee on someone, would you be insured?

Other potential avenues for this technology could be in dangerous environments – search and rescue, deep sea or deep space – wherever the human touch and human interaction might make a difference.

Anyway time to wrap this blog up now, I need to do a mining shift on Mars.

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