The start-ups making robots a realitySOURCE: Gatesnotes
Is it harder for machines to mimic the way humans move or the way humans think? If you had asked me this question a decade ago, my answer would have been “think.” So much of how the brain works is still a mystery. And yet, in just the last year, advancements in artificial intelligence have resulted in computer programs that can create, calculate, process, understand, decide, recognize patterns, and continue learning in ways that resemble our own. Building machines that operate like our bodies—that walk, jump, touch, hold, squeeze, grip, climb, slice, and reach like we do (or better)—would seem to be an easier feat in comparison. Surprisingly, it hasn’t been. Many robots still struggle to perform basic human tasks that require the dexterity, mobility, and cognition most of us take for granted. But if we get the technology right, the uses for robots will be almost limitless: Robots can help during natural disasters when first responders would otherwise have to put their lives on the line—or during public health crises like the COVID pandemic, when in-person interactions might spread disease. On farms, they can be used instead of toxic chemical herbicides to manually pull weeds. They can work long days lugging hundred- or thousand-pound loads around factory floors. A good enough robotic arm will also be invaluable as a prosthesis.