Robots vs. RC

First, a simple distinction. Remote controlled devices are not robots. The SWORD "robot" which so famously was deployed and then un-deployed from Iraq and Afghanistan is not a robot. It is a remote controlled vehicle. It has no "brains" - in only does what its human operator tells it to do.

A few of the most famous "robots" are really hybrids. The Predator and Reaper drones which have made so many headlines are just this type. For anything complex, they are RC vehicles, controlled by human pilots on the ground hooked up with very low latency networks. But for simple tasks, loitering etc, they can be controlled by autonomous autopilot systems.

Then there are the real robots. Robots that are able to be assigned tasks, from simple to complex, and figure out how to do them. On the cheap and common side of this there is the Roomba (mine is called Norm Jr.) which is able to figure out the size of a room and clean it.
(mmmmm dirt)

But the really cool ones. The ones that are the real robots, the ones that show intelligence are the ones which are able to be given a task and a set of tools and figure out how to use them. And yes, this already exists.

Damn cool? Yes, damn cool.

All four types will be critical in the coming years. However, my central point here is that so far, what we have really seen, what we have gone gaga over, are the remote-controlled and semi-autonomous "robots." What we will see a lot more of in the next few decades as they move out of the Universities and into the real world are the last type, the robots which will autonomously solve problems, and eventually be better than us at much of what we do.

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