Blade Runner replicants? Well, not quite yet

Robots are used across different industries and in the armed forces, but Ram Ramamoorthy said that it’s really the defence sector that’s driving most applications. Of course the film Blade Runner is set in October 2013 but it looks like there’s a way to go before beautiful Sarah tips up.

Ramamoorthy, a professor at Edinburgh University, said that medical applications accounted for 20 percent of the market, and defence 40 percent, but they’re also used in logistics, cleaning and construction.

A robot, he said is a machine where the sophistication is such that it can simulate some human senses like sight and sound. Robots can now play football and that’s not really sophistication, is it? He showed a video with many $15,000 robots “playing football”. Guess what, they fall over just like human footballers.

Semantic perceptions are, apparently the name of the game. For a robot to act autonomously it needs to make sense of the world such as what is on top and what’s on the bottom.

Ramamoorthy said that the future for roboticists include context awareness and new sensing.The industry needs smarter servos and smarter actuators too, while power management is also an important factor.

We asked him when we could expect to have replicants. “The level of intelligence of robots in movies is very difficult to achieve. It’s very hard to deal with real people but in reality it’s very hard to model human users. That’s one of the big challenges we’re looking at,” said Ramamoorthy. So we guess that replicants are a long way off, then.

He said that roboticists looked at creating humanoid robots because scientists and medics are looking at possibilities such as prosthetic limbs. “In my own lab we have robots that are not humanoid. Other robots I have are even more stripped down, so we explore the full spectrum,” he said.

So we have seven billion people on the planet, but the professor says that there’s some evidence robots create new jobs rather than make more people unemployed.