July 2nd, 2010

Earth from space

What I want from the future

It's not a flying car. Frankly, I consider painting white stripes on asphalt a totally inadequate method of keeping regular cars from running into each other. I cannot imagine the carnage that would be bound to ensure if we all had flying vehicles. For one thing, there's no way to paint lane markers in the sky.

But I do have some hope from technology. I already read digital books and hold LJ, Twitter, and Facebook "conversations" with people on other continents. I don't have an actual picture phone but I do Skype with a webcam, and talk to my daughter face-to-face (in one sense) while she is a thousand miles away. I carry a phone in my purse that, while it's not a Star Trek communicator, does allow me to communicate with pretty much anyone on the planet with a similar device or a landline.

In medicine, doctors can take images of people's internal organs without opening them up. They can perform surgery with the aid of robotic devices. They can test people's genes and identify a hot of problematic traits.

So, in some sense, the promise of science fiction has been fulfilled. When it comes to communicating and sharing information, we're doing great. But there's an area that needs work. can you guess what it is?

Housework! Why is it that we're still stuck cleaning the old fashioned way? Yes, I know there's an automated vacuum cleaner but it's not going to move the furniture and really get every place a human would. Where's my robot housemaid? I don't mean a single use robotic device that does one thing like vacuum; I want a robot that does it all!

A company called Aldebaran Robotics has built programmable Nao robots, and they're pretty cool but not big enough to be really useful. To heck with dancing; I want to put them to work. And I don't mean just bringing me drinks or light dusting. I want them to scrub the bathroom, sweep and mop the floor, and otherwise do the dirty work.

You can keep the flying car, but I can't wait for my robot housemaid.

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