In Robot Futures, I argue that robots throughout society will have the counter-intuitive advantage of massive networking: with other robots’ experiences and with cloud-based information sources dedicated to inter-robot sharing. I describe a sort of robo-google that eventually allows any robot with a gripper to quickly look up just how to open every unique door handle that a residence may offer, for instance.
This week the European Union’s RoboEarth project has gone public, thanks to more than $5M in funding across several countries. The aim of RoboEarth is, indeed, to act as an information and real-time communication facilitator for robots in shared spaces. Their website, RoboEarth.org, is well worth exploration, as it includes a page on cloud robotics that explains how they view information sharing between robots as a game-changer for each ‘bot’s individual capabilities.
Robots will be in the unique position of being nothing more than a beachhead of a strong computational and informational cloud of unknown size. Of course there may be many such commercial and nonprofit clouds; but in the end the point of view each of us will have, as a human addressing a robot on the sidewalk, will be the same: I wonder just how much this robot knows about me and my family? I wonder how well-connected it is, and how powerful its computational resources are in the Cloud? This may be a future in which our robot-human relations are suffused with far more questions than answers.