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Robots, 'now among us,' hit Smithsonian

Patrick Thibodeau | April 6, 2011
With 1 million robots in use, museum adds to collection ranging from R2-D2 to its newest, Marv, one of the smallest in the world

But Pratt doesn't expect to see robots that can do much beyond "a slice of what humans can do well."

IBM's Watson, for instance, which recently competed against humans on Jeopardy, doesn't have common sense and doesn't really understand the topics it had to deal with on the TV quiz show, said Pratt. "It's just particularly good at the extraction task of finding those answers," he said.

What Pratt wants are robots that are able to go into dangerous environments do necessary tasks, such as fetching objects. "I want to stop using people for those tasks, particularly if it is in a military environment," he said.

The Smithsonian also expanded its robotics collection with donated items relating to the development of autonomous mobile robot technology by Velodyne, including a laser vision system used in DARPA's grand challenge races.

The Smithsonian's collecting efforts are, of course, ongoing. "When there are breakthroughs that we can identify as historically significant in the history of robotics, we want to collect them," Stephens said.


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