AI and Robots

People often confuse robots with AI. While the two are related they are distinct. A robot is a machine that sometimes mimics the human in some activity, but the AI itself is the algorithmic logic inside the robot. AI is the brain, and the robot is its body. Robotics face two challenges: physical and logical. Physical: to make the physical body behave and move as required for the desired activity. Logical: the AI part (the robot brain) must figure out and decide what to do as a response to new inputs and situations. Another misplaced belief about robots is that they are designed as look-alike human-ersatz. Most industrial robots look anything but human and are designed for a very specific task. Their shape, form, and capabilities are optimized for that specific task – like welding, assembly or moving heavy objects. They look anything but human. Science fiction movies and some consumer products make robots look like a human, more in an iconic sense. In most such movies they show that destroying the robot body does not kill the robot, one has to defeat the AI within that runs the robot. An interesting version of dealing with a misbehaving robot is pictured in the over 50 year old classic science fiction “2001: A Space Odyssey.” HAL is the AI and the entire spaceship is the robotic body managed by HAL. When human astronauts believe that HAL is misbehaving and has gone rogue, their only option is to switch off the computer running HAL to regain control of the spaceship.

Furthermore, AI does not require a physical body to express itself. AI can be viewed as an information processing black box containing the specialized learned cognition. Input is a stream of data representing a new situation or a query. The output is the information for decision support or a desired action. Here are a few examples of AI enhanced information services to illustrate that AI needs no physical body:

Fig. 1.3 AI enhanced information services illustrating that AI needs no physical body

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