Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Why Droids Will Converge on the Human Form Factor

What form will these droids take? At first, probably for the next couple of decades, the form they take now, specialized droids like the roomba vacuum and such.
Next will be a generation of metal-men, like C3-PO, probably for another couple of decades.
Next is when things get really interesting. They will start to take the form of realistically human.

Why human?
Several reasons we'll touch on briefly here.
1. Maximum compatibility with the existing infrastructure built for humans.
2. The human form will minimize the communication barrier between humans and computing devices, as low as it can go without being integrated into our bodies. The form of an external droid is actually better in most cases, because it can do chores and such, do more things than a piece of integrated biotech into our bodies. These droids will be realized before such integration of biotech is widespread.
3. Social situations. Yes, there are compelling reasons to want our droid to go with us into many social and public situations. We'll discuss this in detail in a later thread. Suffice for now that when these droids do accompany their owners, it is in the owner's best interest for this droid to be convincingly human to everyone else.


Tim Tyler said...

"Droid" is an abbreviation for "android" - which is humanoid - by definition.

We will see plenty of robots in other shapes - car-shaped robots, plane-shaped robots, insectoid robots, house-shaped robots, etc.

snakeoilbaron said...

This comment is a very late response to the above comment but the term "droid" was popularized by the Star Wars franchise (whether or not George Lucas coined the term or not - I don't know) and has come to be associated with any fully or partially autonomous robot. R2-D2 was an example of a non-anthropomorphic robot referred to as a "droid" as were the medical droids, one of which is seen in The Empire Strikes Back tending to an injured Luke Skywalker which looked like a cross between a garbage can and a robot jellyfish. While this new usage may deviate from the origin of the word it is reflective of how the meaning has evolved. Just thought I'd clarify.

And yes I am a geek of sorts - just not the rich or useful kind ;-)

I agree with Mr Tyler that there will be many morphologies depending on the tasks and environments they are produced for but I would not be surprised to see a large role for humanoid robots. Just as they are better suited to do tasks which humans have had to do in the past, designing new tasks for them will be easier for humans to do since they can envision the humanoid form doing it. (I hope that was clear).