Injuries Inflicted from Robots Studied

robots becoming more technically advanced and more feasible around the
house, a future where robots help with the housework, cleaning,
chopping vegetables, and tucking children in at night may become a
reality sooner than we had previously anticipated.  But as with any new
technological device, there is a possibility for human error and
machine malfunction.  One research team in Germany is hoping to study
just that.

The experiment was simple: a robotic arm holding
several blades and sharp tools was programmed to cut through substances
that were soft and fleshy.  Vegetables, hot dogs, and human flesh were
all possible targets.  Of course for the purpose of the experiment the
human flesh was substituted for a simple silicon lump.  The robot used
screwdrivers, steak knives, kitchen knives, cleavers, scissors, and a
screwdriver.  The results of the experiment, aside from building a
terrifying bladed killbot were clear.  Without the proper programming,
and fail-safe mechanisms, a robot could easily cause accidental injury
or death to a human being by accident.  The experiment also included a
prototype safety system designed to reduce the lethality and the amount
of damage done by the robot.

The later experiments used the same
silicone lump, but added a pork loin and the arm of a live human
volunteer.  The researchers concluded that a safety system on robots
would have to be mandatory if they were going to be performing kitchen
duties such as chopping, stabbing, and/or tenderizing.  The robot with
the safety mechanism was significantly less deadly.  The researchers
patted themselves on the back as their specially designed kill-bot
failed to create injuries quite as bad after their safety switch caused
the robot to “realize” when it was cutting, or about to cut something
it wasn’t supposed to.  Torque sensors within the robot would study the
type of substance being hit, and immediately cut power and pull back on
a strike when a different substance was detected.  It is the same sort
of safety mechanism used to prevent large robots from crushing people
when moving quickly down a hallway or road.

Researchers are
hopeful that the 2011 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and
Automation will be even better than that held in 2010 of this year in
Alaska.  With new technology, motion tracking, data gathering, and limb
control, it seems there is nowhere in the field of robotics to go than
forward.  But will robots one day become a real and dangerous part of
our own homes?  Will reprogrammable robots one day be rigged to guard
houses in addition to helping to cook and clean?  And how long until
the first murder is assisted with the use of a machine?  One can only
imagine the horrifying prospect of a 911 call being played over the
news in which a machine has clearly gone rogue and is now chasing the
occupants of the house it once served.  Is this reason enough to
forsake a future with household robots?  As we embrace new technologies
we realize it is a double edged sword.