Cloud-Brained Humanoid Robots Are Right around the Corner

ublished on Feb 3, 2016

A new generation of humanoid robots are coming in the 2020s, says innovation and industry expert Alec Ross. They will care for our aging populations and revolutionize manufacturing. Ross’ book is “The Industries of the Future The Industries of the Future

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Transcript – The robots of the cartoons and movies from the 1970s are going to be the reality of the 2020s. And there are two real drivers behind this. First is mapping belief space. Historically it’s been really difficult to be able to instruct robots to do things like grasping. Grasping might seem like a pretty straightforward thing to do but it’s actually very complex mathematically and algorithmically to be able to instruct robots how to do that. And so what this mathematical breakthrough in mapping belief space has done is it has taken what are historically very complex tasks for robots and made them easier to do. The second thing is cloud robotics. So if C-3PO right now – if he walked over here and interrupted this Big Think interview he would say, “Oh my. Excuse me.” And get out of the frame. And as he did this there would be a lot of hardware and software whirring in that gold gleaming body of his. In reality the C-3PO of the 2020s will be a cloud connected device. And so what he would do if he stumbled into this interview is he would ping the cloud and he would get instructions from the hive mind that is there algorithmically. And he would then know to excuse himself to do so in English and to then go clunk away.

So what does this mean? What this means is that the robots of our youths and of our imaginations don’t have to have millions of dollars of incredibly sophisticated hardware and software in them. They can be relatively lightweight dumb devices so long as they’re connected to the power of the cloud. So what’s the significance? Okay, so they’re cheaper. So what? The big significance here really goes to labor. So let’s think about the difference between humans and robots and their costs. Humans don’t have a lot of cap ex but they have a lot of op ex. So the upfront costs, you know, maybe your employer buys you some business cards. Maybe he gets you a computer for work or something like that. Not a lot of cap ex. Not a lot of upfront costs. But a lot of op ex. Every two weeks you want to get paid, right? A lot of salary. A lot of op ex. Robots come with diametrically opposed cost structure. It’s a lot of cap ex. You’ve got to buy the robot but then relatively little op ex. You can work them 24 hours a day. They aren’t going to join a union or get sick and they don’t expect a salary. And so what’s happening right now is we’re seeing new equilibrium points in terms of the tradeoff between the relative cost of a cap ex intense, op ex light robot and a cap ex light, op ex high labor of humans. I saw this in all places in East Asia in the football field size factories of Foxconn, the Taiwanese company that makes all of our smart phones. And Terry Gou, the CEO of Foxconn who employs 973,000 people has decided he’s not hiring any more humans. He’s just buying robots. And so I think that this is fascinating stuff as the robots of the cartoons and movies become the reality of the 2020s. Read The Full Transcript Here:http://goo.gl/L5DUSL.

The Industries of the Future

Cloud-Brained Humanoid Robots Are Right around the Corner