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Unit 1 - Chapter 1: Food for Thought

Matarić, M. J. (2007) The Robotics Primer, Chapter 1: Food for thought:

Q1: What else can you do from afar, by means of teleoperation? You can talk, write, and see, as in telephone, telegraph, and television. There is more. Can you think of it?

A1: There are telescopes, which allow you to see far distances (although I don't know if this is considered teleoperation becuase it's more of a passive operation). You can remote control almost anything using frequencies on the electromagnetic spectrum (ex. wifi, bluetooth, infrared, & visible light in the form of fiber optics or even just turning a flashlight on/off to signal morse code).

Q2: Is a thermostat a robot?

A2: This is a tricky question but I think the answer is: No, a thermostat is not a robot. It could be used as part of a robot (a sensor), but is not autonomous. A thermostat can sense temperature using its bimetallic strip, but cannot make it's own decisions and cannot act to achieve its own goals. It can turn on a furnace which can then start to increase temperature, but the thermostat is only one part that system. Although it can sense it's environment, it cannot act on it to achieve its goal. A furnace or A/C unit might not even be connected and the thermostat wouldn't even know. 

Q3: Is a toaster a robot?

A3: No, unfortunately toasters are unable to perform actions and make decisions all on their own so they are not a robot. If, when asked to, the toaster was able to pick up a piece of toast, then start toasting it to a pre-programmed level then serve the toast (with butter!), I think that it would then be considered a robot. A human is still required to insert the toast and hit a switch to begin the toasting process. 

Q4: Are "softbots" robots?

A4: I think when softbos are mentioned in the textbook that it is referring to software / AI / code as opposed to the field of soft robotics, which use flexible, hollow, rubbery material which can be filled with air in order to move the robot (this I woud consider a robot if it met the requirements of the robot definition). Softbots, on the other hand, are very close to being a robot, exept for one major thing: They do not exist in the physical world. So they cannot be considered a robot.

Q5: Is HAL, from the movie 2001 the Space Odyssey a robot?

A5: I've never seen this movie, but I did watch a video clip on Youtube (

) and have come to the conclusion that yes, HAL is a sentient robot. HAL uses Artificial intelligence to make decisions based off of sensors that are abundant in its system (I think its system is actually a spaceship). It probably has some camera which it can use to detect light (it used a camera likely to detect the movement in Daves lips when they he talked about shutting HAL down) and speakers to hear sound. I also know from that video clip that HAL can control doors based off its own decisions. Very creepy, but I'm intrigued though so I might have to watch this movie now. 

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