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Robots are Everywhere Now

Daily Times(PK) logo Daily Times(PK) 02/05/2022 M Bilal Hamza

Imagine your child suffers from an illness, skips his classes but doesn’t miss his lectures, assignments and learning. Someone else goes in his place, is there in a class all the time physically, interacts with the teacher and classmates and asks questions on your kid’s behalf. Joshua Martinangeli, a seven-years-old young boy, is too ill to go to school. An avatar robot sits in class in his place and sends a blinking signal when he has something to say. Joshua drapes his arms on an iPad and interacts with the class throughout in the comfort of his own home. The avatar project is a private initiative paid for by the local council in Berlin and turning a new leaf over. The Norwegian company that produced robots stands adamant about lessening loneliness and social isolation through its technologies. Sounds good?

Imagine if a robot comes to see you at your place, initiates a dialogue, flaunts emotions through its engaging human facial gestures and then drives back home on its own. Meet Ameca, a humanoid robot that uses ground-breaking advancements in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and motor movement. The developers, UK. Engineered Arts, took some four years to churn out this AI marvel and stole the march upon rest at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) held in Las Vegas. Ameca is modelled on human voluntary and involuntary actions, and produced based on animations acquired through human gestures, actions, expressions and emotions. A hybrid system to be precise, Ameca holds 17 motors in its head alone and uses both artificial intelligence and a human operator—-who remotely controls its facial and speech expressions. The makers vow to build a walking version of the humanoid down the timeline and they’re on it!

Imagine someone bringing a BMW into your garage that changes colours. Well, recently, BMW has unveiled the world’s first colour-changing car using E Ink technology, which allows the exterior to keep changing its ‘true’ colours like a fair-weather friend. E Ink helps fluid colour changing modes to maintain the balance and colour symmetry through saturation and corrections. The mystery doesn’t get settled here: this concept car, BMW iX Flow, helps with sustainability and climate control within the vehicle. On a hot, sunny day, you could switch the colour white to reflect sunlight and vice versa— the black to absorb heat on a cold day. Are you yearning for one such vehicle?

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With a growing number of institutions and proliferating degree-holders each year, the only way forward is no way forward.

Meanwhile, the Hyundai Motor Company is introducing a broad range of robotic devices to interact with humans to provide a broad range of mobility services, from automated individual transportation to remote control robots in factories. As of late, the illustrious robotics company Boston Dynamics was acquired by Hyundai for a whopping $1.1 billion price. The former is widely known for its robotic marvel ‘Spot’ that has aced the globe with its utilities. According to its official definition: “It is an agile mobile robot that navigates the terrain with unprecedented mobility, allowing you to automate routine inspection tasks and data capture safely”

Enough with Robots?

Let’s talk about drones then. Imagine you own acres of land—thanks to your booming business bringing you bucks in bulk—and you want to cover it with thick green sheets. How about deploying seed-dropping drones that could plant 40,000 trees in just a single day time? Meet the Australian biotech start-up that is holding the jinx of deforestation by its horn while consuming its drones into planting millions of trees a year from the air. Imagine if former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s expert team would get hold of this technology, wouldn’t they pave the terrains with trees—jokes apart?

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Imagine you make a call at a customer support service and you are being answered by virtual intelligent agents, indistinguishable from a real person. Welcome to Five9, a San Francisco-based set-up, which claims that its cloud-based AI customer service agent can save an organization as much as 90 per cent compared to employing a person to do the job. Their chatbot services are not to be confused with those conventional automatic answering services; they know how you’re feeling, indeed!

Makes sense if you’re not pretty much amused with the technologies discussed. Let’s have some time- travelling then! Imagine if virtual reality provides you with an opportunity to dive back in time, with sounds and physical feel? Well, tell you what, here you are, a new virtual reality experience is now allowing people to visit Notre Dame cathedral, a medieval Catholic cathedral and French historical figure, throughout the ages. This incredible experience takes visitors through a 45-minute-long trip, complete with visual and sound effects, going from the construction of the iconic Parisian landmark to the fire that ravaged it in 2019.

I hope you’d have enjoyed the mentioning of these amazing technologies big time, and probably would have wished if you might get your hands on some. Right?

By the way, don’t we think that our “passive user status” is an embarrassment beyond imagination? How long would we like to remain in the limbo state, conceal behind the pretence of falsified “developing country red herrings” and rather embarrass ourselves for being the most impotent nations in terms of research excellence and technology development initiatives? With a growing number of institutions and proliferating degree holders each year, the only way forward is no way forward, to say the least. This impotent educational culture has brought ruins to the well being of a research-oriented society.

In 2021, when the students of Ghulam Ishaq Khan Institute of Engineering Sciences and Technology (GIKI) participated in the Design, Build and Fly contest in the United States of America and bagged the second position, it left everyone gobsmacked globally. Team Invictus won the second prize in the competition hosted by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and beat the likes of MIT, UC Berkeley, and Stanford. The brilliant students demonstrated their capabilities in producing a crewless radio-controlled aircraft, and building a UAV with a towed sensor. Finally, they got back home and evaporated in the humdrum of fake academic culture. Totally unaware of their current status, may I ask how much patronage did they get from the Pakistani government? Did state broadcaster cover their absolutely phenomenal feat? Besides petty funding meted out by Fauji Foundation, did they get any ‘hefty finance’ to help them achieve their goals? Ironically, the silver linings keep on coming along but vanish in no time.

In a world where robots are acing the globe and artificial intelligence is besting the human intellect, we’re not ready to take time by the forelocks and put any investments into the pool of research excellence and technology initiatives, whatsoever. Unfortunate, isn’t it?

The writer is based in Islamabad. He can be reached at mbilal.isbpk@gmail.com, FB/mbilal.16

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