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When I was in my younger years, the thought of space exploration and astronauts was pretty big news. Back then, many of us probably had thoughts of becoming an astronaut in some manner or another. There was a truly human element to it, the “astronaut” was one of us. A human. For space distances to the moon for example, this “human astronaut” model seemed to work. (Yes, I know, call me naive, but I think humans have actually set foot on the moon). However, when it comes to the further explorations on Mars and other further away planets, we humans have some obvious limitations. Mostly these relate to the distance and time needed to reach the planets, but even then there are obvious physical and mental constraints as well.

We need sufficient food, air, water and livable temperatures, gravity levels, etc. for our physical side. Likewise, our mental and social sides need to be taken care of as well, we even need a sense of purpose and well-being, identity and companionship. We get lonely, we make mistakes and so the obvious question is: For future spacefaring missions, if we humans fall short, what will supplant that as a solution?

Well NASA has known for some time that one of the solutions is:  Robotics.

NASA uses the term “Robotics” pretty broadly (for more on this see their site and their ideas here:http://www.nasa.gov/audience/forstudents/5-8/features/nasa-knows/what_is_robotics_58.html)

But what is interesting these days is that NASA has been unveiling their very “humanoid” robot recently and they call this particular version: The Valkyrie

Interesting to note that this robot name is coined after the old Norse mythological concept of the “Valkyrja” which can roughly be translated as “chooser of the slain”. Yes, it’s a plural term as there were multiple “Valkyrja” who were female in gender and whose job it was (among others) to choose those who may die or live in battle. These are not just wheeled robotic units but these NASA robots are actual bi-pedal robots which “mimic” very human forms and features.

But these NASA new generation Valkyrie robots (as far as I know) are not in any battlefield. Or are they? Perhaps you can say there is a “battle” for space exploration. But here is the rub. Especially interesting for this Robot is that NASA is partnering with some interesting institutions to further develop these robots especially in their AI and software aspects and less so in their mechanical ones that NASA already has had some years to perfect.

This would seem to point out a few things (among others) that I would venture. Please allow me to speculate here:

  • Perhaps NASA and all of their engineers are still faced with serious cognitive AI software challenges that they are not yet able to solve “on their own” in order to make these robots more “self-sufficient” and to be able to be “thinking” as well as doing. For this they are willing to go to partners to “synthesize” solutions.
  • This would also maybe imply that the intention is to send these robots “on their own” or at least prepare them for planets or situations where they may or may not be able to take direct communications or instructions from earth based systems.
  • Finally, this would imply an amount of cooperation in a very serious robotic project that one does not see very often. Usually robotic systems are kept quite patented and kept in secret until they are “unveiled” as such. Here the robot of NASA is a “transparent work in progress”.

No, I am not suggesting that this is “fully transparent” nor that NASA is not naive and haphazard and would have chosen their “partners” well. There were no doubt many “non-disclosure” contracts to be signed, but the fact remains that this kind of cooperation is a bit unorthodox and unprecedented. I see it as positive and it opens up many possibilities and synergies and certainly furthers the visibility of robotics to the public at large. It is this cooperation in the field of robotics for such a high profile case that inspired me to share some thoughts in the Sogeti Labs blog about this development as to me this is a very interesting way to work and I am known to be a bit unorthodox myself.

Normally, one would think that there would be a tremendous amount of security and secrecy about such a project, but here it is transparent and publicized. That seems to be the case in Robotics research for space exploration, as opposed to say robotics for military applications. This NASA originated robotic cooperation seems to exceed “intellectual” borders and sectors and this I think is positive.  It is in this high tech field of robotics that there is a lot of cooperation at university and corporate as well as governmental levels. That is hopeful to produce some good results. And this benefits the students and others as we will be witnessing I believe an even more and greater prevalence of robotics in universities and in the workforce as well as in our daily lives and not just in outer space. Here I would just point out that many technologies we use day to day got their origin in space technology research, including advances in robotics itself.

PHOTO DATE: 12-12-13 LOCATION: Bldg. 32B - Valkyrie Lab SUBJECT: High quality, production photos of Valkyrie Robot for PAO PHOTOGRAPHERS: BILL STAFFORD, JAMES BLAIR, REGAN GEESEMAN

PHOTO DATE: 12-12-13
LOCATION: Bldg. 32B – Valkyrie Lab
SUBJECT: High quality, production photos of Valkyrie Robot for PAO
PHOTOGRAPHERS: BILL STAFFORD, JAMES BLAIR, REGAN GEESEMAN

We can safely assume that NASA has been working on just such a Valkyrie Robot for many years in some form of secrecy yet they have recently “donated” some of these prototypes for further research and modifications and improvements to such high tech learning centers such as MIT for example.

Here on the MIT website you can read more: http://news.mit.edu/2015/nasa-gives-mit-humanoid-robot-future-space-missions-1117

It will be very interesting to see what AI, software, machine cognitive advances will come from this kind of cooperation.  In any case, as with all technological advances that were intended for space, it may be that the robotic advances will have even more relevant applications back her eon good old planet earth.

NASA and other space agencies across the world have sent orbiting satellites, robot framework and probes into space and have even sent rovers and wheeled vehicles mounted with sensors and cameras, etc. to Mars for example. Through this we come to find out for example recently that it is confirmed that there is a form of H20 (Water so to speak) on Mars. Which is a ground-breaking piece of news. Most likely we would not have gained this knowledge without Robotic “feet on the ground” (or wheels as it may be) so to speak.

Imagine what kind of advances in useful data collecting and fact finding on other planets these “intelligent and self-sufficient” robots could achieve on such further planets such as MARS or beyond? Could they find other soils better for food sources? Find other elements? Other materials that could save lives or at least make ours better? Could they find solutions to help make the difference between whether we as humans survive or not? Where have I heard that before?

Aha! Of course, perhaps then that “difference” these robots could make for humanity is why they are called “Valkyrie”!?

Such Robots as these (or at least some discoveries we may get trying to work with Robots such as these – all future failures and success included) may be the very technological tool or “missing future link” that helps “we” the collective human species to “survive” on the metaphorical “battlefield of life” on a planet with climate changes and dwindling resources so to speak. Darwin may not have predicted that but I’m sure he would call that a form of “adaptation” no?

Or perhaps there is a Norwegian person who designed the Robot? Perhaps the reasoning for the Robot’s name is even just something more banal or mundane. Maybe I am again waxing too poetically again. But I think not. I would have to talk to the teams within NASA to see who and why they came up with the name. But I would imagine I am not too far off. If you work for NASA and are reading this, please feel to leave a comment below.

Either way, this robotic space exploration development is fascinating to me not only because I am passionate about Robotics but I am also passionate about Space Exploration and I am also certainly keen on surviving just like everybody else right?

So, in the future it may not be wheels but Robotic feet that help humanity find solutions to worldly issues on outer planetary regions. Future Spacewalks both in space at space stations or on ships travelling hundreds of years in space or on planets far away may come from Robots and not we humans. This is quite a leap from only 50 years or so ago when it was man’s turn to walk on the moon. And it is quite a radical use of a format (humanoid robot) and technology that has long been scoffed at as simply a toy.

Also, it is easy to see that for the time to come at least, one of the greatest aids to our human story in outer space may be aided firstly in some planets by “astronauts” of not just the future but the “now” that will not be human but will be machine. Human machines nonetheless. And there will be many of them to come. Time to play some Wagner.

 

Daniel Maslyn AUTHOR:
Daniël Maslyn is part of the Sogeti Labs Group and is a passionate and creative software testing professional with over 15 years of experience in real-world situations ranging from hands-on operational testing roles to test management positions. Knowledgeable in a variety of test methods, techniques and testing paradigms.

Posted in: communication, component testing, Data structure, Quality Assurance, Research, Robotics, Security, Social Aspects, Socio-technical systems, Software Development, SogetiLabs      
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RUR RobotThe prediction that, by 2050, we will be able to devise the electronics and circuitry and CPU strength needed to implant a comparable AI (equal to or exceeding the current Human Brain in terms of cognitive and other ‘thinking’ capabilities) into autonomous Robotic frameworks, combined with sensors and complex mechanical systems, could mean that we might be seeing Robots doing more jobs than we can imagine.

Am I guilty of being a bit too optimistic here? I don’t think so. I am sure some readers would have formulated some serious pitfalls; so, please feel free to comment on such below. There are only a few setbacks that I can think of when it comes to this arguably optimistic view. Setbacks would be that the need for dangerous, dirty, dull labor will decrease. Perhaps we ourselves will become less-risk prone and live a less dangerous, dirty and dull life. Here, I am not referring necessarily to the persons themselves… but the jobs that we do. Is that bad? Maybe it’s a good thing. Maybe we can focus our energies elsewhere while the Robots ‘do the dirty work’ so to speak. Maybe we could focus on more interesting jobs – or at least on building even more useful and better robots to ‘serve’ humanity.

Maybe it’s about how we look at the idea of what we can term ‘a Robot’? Is stapler a Robot? We are a part of that chain of events needed to mechanically enact the stapler. But what about a copy machine that binds legal papers that need to have handwritten signatures gathered into bundles with a staple in the process? Is that a Robot? Will it get rid of jobs? It’s definitely more advanced than the good old fashioned stapler, but not a ‘Robot’ per se; however, it’s getting there. Still we say it’s ‘not a robot’ and so, it doesn’t threaten us. For now, that’s still a machine albeit with embedded software. Handy, but not a problem perhaps.

Now, what about a machine that is bipedal, looks like a human, can be dictated to, can communicate and type the legal documents, move around in buildings and on the street and ride in automated driven automobiles? It is hooked up with the ‘internet of things’ where we can update the text content at the touch of a button and via voice command. It has, as one of its dedicated protocol jobs, to handle (from start to finish) the creation of our documents and bundling / unbundling the papers as many times as we wish and the electrical supply allows. The ‘Robot’ could help script and arrange papers, staple them and even deliver them to the post office or to the persons in questions or deliver them to a drone who could pick up the document and fly it across town to the destination. Now are we getting close? Are we eliminating jobs? Yes, the dangerous job of bicycle courier is finally on the hit list!

But, where do we draw the line? I am sure those of you who have dishwashers would not want to trade it back for the good old hand washed event… would you? That’s a job we didn’t mind eliminating. Certainly not after the holidays.

Perhaps some get ‘scared’ when they think that the future robots can do ‘exactly’ what we can do! But WHY?
Do we have so little faith in our human race that, when potentially ‘alleviated’ of many of the current so called ‘jobs’ we do today, we won’t be able to better focus our energies and intellect elsewhere? To create even more and other productive ones?

How do you know that this blog post isn’t written by a Robot? Certainly, cognitive programming and complex algorithms would be able to be set up methods, programmed to churn out such written material at some stage, right?
Now, where it starts to maybe get a bit on the ‘border of ethical or moral’ debate (even I will admit), however, is where we postulate a future milestone that may occur where we can almost think of these Robots as having a ‘mind of their own’ or a ‘consciousness’. Then the 3D jobs would indeed, potentially, become a moral quagmire. Again, going back to the play RUR: The Robots described in RUR were not just automatons or mechanical, but were closer to complex biological organisms that (like a ultimate ‘Turing Test’) could fool humans who could not distinguish between a ‘Real’ Human and one of these type of ‘Robots’. That’s a bit far-fetched?

Everyone who knows me, knows that I am and will remain a big fan of: the writer Philip K Dick, who wrote the 1970s science fiction ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,’ and the resulting 1980 science fiction film ‘Blade Runner’ by Ridley Scott. Both postulate the approach where the future ‘Robots’ are more like androids or biological robots. Not to mention the concept of the ‘Cylons’ in the science fiction television series ‘Battle Star Galactica.’

In these pop culture classics, we see an ‘optimistic’  prediction of the year(s) in the future where these Robotic advances would have been realized. For instance, in the 1981 film Blade runner, the replicants were predicted to be active in  the Los Angeles of the “near future” of 2015. As far as I know there are no replicants running around L.A. today. Are there ? We didn’t reach that future yet (except maybe the voice-controlled photo viewing machine sequence, which is theoretically possible today and is most likely existing for some special ‘agencies’ let’s say)
Think of them as either tools for evolution or think of them as the evolution of the human race themselves, seen this way: They will be advanced enough to house all our knowledge (Artificial Intelligence), be mobile in more ways than one (can bipedal walk, swim or fly or all of the above and more), stay ‘alive’ for longer periods than our expected terms (what we live to be roughly 80 or so? ) and can operate 7 days a week, 24 hours a day for all 365 days in a year.

The only constraints being the autonomous capabilities of the Robots (sensors, battery life, interactions with unexpected events, etc.) and how such Robots will handle the other ‘out of the box’ situations. But then again, how do we humans learn? Go to the ‘Darwin Awards’ website and see how we still seem to make the same mistakes over and over again.

So, what’s stopping this ‘Robot Take Over’ from happening?

The answer is dualistic and complicated. For some of us, the answer is: Nothing. Absolutely Nothing. And for others: Everything. Absolutely Everything. But that’s the subject for another blog post…. Alas!
For now, I suppose the persons in the former category are the ones building the robots of the future and there doesn’t seem to be any going back on that front. The persons in the latter category have not yet made the laws to block robotics advancement. It may come, but I doubt it, especially when the Robot washes their dishes or helps them to write their laws.

So, get ready. They will take over jobs. They will be more prevalent. Get Robot savvy now. Don’t believe the negative Spin doctors about Robots taking over. Why not see it like this: If well designed, and implemented by the right people for the right purposes and in the right manner, Robots will free us of the 3D jobs and will serve and help us. They will not so much be our ‘slaves’ as our extensively useful and time-saving and electromechanical software-run ‘colleagues’. So, if you were one of those convinced of the evil plot of the Robots, I hope you can let the thoughts perish. I hope this inspires you to at least think about this concept and subject and maybe even to take those first steps into learning more about Robot technologies and seeing Robots free us of 3D jobs as a good and necessary step toward human evolution and not some affront or threat to humankind.

To read the original post and add comments, please visit the SogetiLabs blog: Robots “To Rob” Jobs? Reversing the Negative Spin (Part 2)

Related Posts:

  1. Robots “To Rob” Jobs? Reversing the Negative Spin (Part 1)
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Daniel Maslyn AUTHOR:
Daniël Maslyn is part of the Sogeti Labs Group and is a passionate and creative software testing professional with over 15 years of experience in real-world situations ranging from hands-on operational testing roles to test management positions. Knowledgeable in a variety of test methods, techniques and testing paradigms.

Posted in: Behaviour Driven Development, Business Intelligence, Developers, Environmental impact, Human Interaction Testing, Human Resources, Open Innovation, Technology Outlook      
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RURYou see a lot of posts these days warning us about the ‘Robot revolution’ and about how Robots will be replacing the jobs of many people in the future. Without sounding too crude or controversial, I would ask: Why is this so bad after all? That’s what they are here for, isn’t it?

The jobs that fall into the 3 ‘Ds’ category (i.e. Dangerous, Dull, Dirty) are not exactly the jobs we want people doing in the first place, right?

I don’t want to get into a moralistic or ethical debate here; nor do I want to set in motion the pendulum of either Utopian or Dystopian thinking. All I want to point out is that, yes of course, you can bet 100% on the fact that Robots will become more prevalent in all facets of our lives in the future. That means, naturally, certain jobs will be handled purely by the robotic systems designed for those 3D implementations and as a result: Certain jobs will soon become ‘too laborious’ for Homo Sapiens and hence, obsolete. Here, it is the balance of the Project ‘Iron Triangle’ that’s in play. The three triangle edges being Cost, Time and Scope (with Quality considered as the middle factor). It simply will not be cost-effective, nor time-effective nor logical for humans to be asked to do these 3D jobs any longer when the risky jobs could be handled more effectively, cheaply and safely by Robots, resulting in even more consistent, if not greater quality. Thinking of the Project or Product Triangle, it’s just a “win-win-win” situation.

For the sake of time and cost argument, Karel Čapek (in his play RUR) had set in roughly a ‘near plausible’ future (1950s or 1960s) and his ‘robots’ were inexpensive and abundant everywhere. Consequently, they were irreplaceable as they made products of equal quality for a fifth of the cost that humans did and with less errors and waste.

It’s interesting that on the one hand we don’t like the idea of humans slaving away on menial tasks, but on the other, some are ‘scared’ or ‘scare mongering’ that “Robots are going to take over the world.” That’s true – they will. The dirty, dangerous and dull part of the world. Let them have it, I say. That’s the very point. But it’s a negative spin to say Robots will “take away our jobs.” Why? Well, I for one am lazy and, sadly perhaps, I see the human race as a ‘work- avoidance prone’ one. However, we are definitely not tool- or machine-averse. You might even argue that it’s our ability to use technology to make useful tools, solutions and applications that got us this far, wherever that may be.

So enter our positive obsession with ‘the robot.’ They will not ‘take over’ the jobs but ‘handle’ the jobs that we ‘choose’ to leave to them. Is that a threat? I do not think so.

In fact, by doing so, we’ll get to focus on less 3D jobs and more ‘interesting’ jobs. Perhaps robots will free the time for plenty of other more useful or even more productive jobs for us to consider. Like, perhaps, devising ways of generating new fuel supplies, transport methods, medicines, etc. leading to less conflict and misunderstandings. Perhaps more time for education for all. As we will have more of the population educated and more ‘free time’ to do many other things we couldn’t explore before, perhaps our new inventions and new technologies will even make the Robots that ‘took our jobs’ look primitive.

Also, interesting to note is that the epistemology of the word ‘Robot’ can possibly be linked to the word ‘Slave’ in its origins. The term ‘robota’ in Czech translates to something similar to ‘serf laborer’ (in the medieval sense) and could have been derived from a Slavic word ‘rab,’ meaning ‘slave.’ This is a bit of a stretch, however it’s true that Czech playwright, dramatist, essayist, publisher, literary reviewer, and art critic Karel Čapek / 1890-1938, is said to have ‘introduced’ the term ‘Robot’ to English-speaking audiences (Some quote Karel saying that, in fact, it was his brother Josef who inspired him); so, it is no stretch to state that Karel’s Theatre piece called ‘RUR,’ which premiered in 1921 introduced the term ‘Robot’ to a larger public. RUR stood for ‘Rosumovi Univerzální Roboti’ or ‘Rossum’s Universal Robots.’ The Robots, the Negative spin doctors talk of, are renegade robot revolution machines crazed to destroy us. But perhaps Robots and ‘Robot Friendly’ Humans could be given a chance to project Robots not as ‘slaves’ but as ‘efficient’ if not sometimes ‘wondrous’ allies or ‘colleagues’ in our workforce and even social lives. Take the Robot bowling anyone?

Watch this space! Part 2 will be published tomorrow ….

To read the original post and add comments, please visit the SogetiLabs blog: Robots “To Rob” Jobs? Reversing the Negative Spin (Part 1)

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Daniel Maslyn AUTHOR:
Daniël Maslyn is part of the Sogeti Labs Group and is a passionate and creative software testing professional with over 15 years of experience in real-world situations ranging from hands-on operational testing roles to test management positions. Knowledgeable in a variety of test methods, techniques and testing paradigms.

Posted in: Behaviour Driven Development, Business Intelligence, Developers, Environmental impact, Human Interaction Testing, Human Resources, Open Innovation, Opinion, Technology Outlook      
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On January 12, SogetiLabs Fellow Daniël Maslyn hosted a webinar on Robotics and IT Testing. You can watch the full recording (starts at 6’45”) by clicking here (we apologize for the poor sound quality due to a technical issue with the platform). Daniël’s deck is also available below.

The next SogetiLabs webinar is schedule on February 2 at 5pm CET.

  • Topic: The Recover Approach: Reverse Modeling and Up-To-Date Evolution of Functional Requirements in Alignment with Tests
  • SpeakerAlbert Tort

To read the original post and add comments, please visit the SogetiLabs blog: Webinar: Uniting Robotics and IT Testing

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Daniel Maslyn AUTHOR:
Daniël Maslyn is part of the Sogeti Labs Group and is a passionate and creative software testing professional with over 15 years of experience in real-world situations ranging from hands-on operational testing roles to test management positions. Knowledgeable in a variety of test methods, techniques and testing paradigms.

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220px-Shadow_Hand_Bulb_largeThe age of Robotics has arrived, in fact it’s been growing at a steady pace for quite some time. Most of us however including many “strictly” IT professionals, are not aware of the advances and full implications for opening new markets, products and services; moreover the technologies, skills and methods that will need to be learned and applied to be of any added value in this field.

The technologies combined to make robotic systems are challenging the IT world. Electrical, Mechanical and Cognitive specialists will either supersede or need to be equalled and become bosom buddies with “robotics aware” IT professionals leading the AI aspects of robotics. IT programmers, analysts, designers, architects and testers (among others) and those capable of taking (or even better, of making) this transition will survive the robotic wave coming. Those that remain in the silos will be left to their own.

Though robotic solutions today would surprise many, the near future robotic systems are those which (by our current standards) may sound more like a Ridley Scott science fiction film than a plausible future. Ten years ago however, the Mobile smart phone technology already existed as well. The early adaptors of robotics are already active and will have a considerable advantage in the future. In IT if you do not keep aware, you run the risk of becoming obsolete. IT for robotics is very real and the designing, manufacturing and yes, testing of the robotic systems while in its infancy is here to stay.

The cliché of tin plated actors walking and talking as robots was farfetched, yet ironically there are fully autonomous robotic systems that make these Hollywood parodies look shameful in comparison. This took 50 years to realise from what was perceived to what was achieved. If we extrapolate, you can see we are close to major breakthroughs with lighter and stronger frameworks and smaller and more powerful computing and electrical technologies now making advanced robotics a realistic field. With the advances in mechanical, electrical and information technologies, this is no time to fall behind. The technologies will be more complex and the potential for discovering and eradicating defects and issues will become more urgent.

Note: On January 12, 5PM CET, SogetiLabs will host its first public webinar with Daniël Maslyn as a moderator to further discuss the future of testing and robotics. Save the date and join by clicking on the following link: http://www.anymeeting.com/sogetilabswebinar (Limited to 200 attendees).

To read the original post and add comments, please visit the SogetiLabs blog: Uniting Robotics and IT testing

 

Daniel Maslyn AUTHOR:
Daniël Maslyn is part of the Sogeti Labs Group and is a passionate and creative software testing professional with over 15 years of experience in real-world situations ranging from hands-on operational testing roles to test management positions. Knowledgeable in a variety of test methods, techniques and testing paradigms.

Posted in: Business Intelligence, communication, Developers, Innovation, IT strategy, mobile testing, Open Innovation, Opinion      
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