Robots appear with the first industrial revolution (Cotton gin, steam engine, etc.). Previously it had created automatons (Vaucanson, 1733) and looms with punch cards (1745), etc. Then in sequence appeared cybernetics (1900), artificial intelligence (Turing, 1950) and rovers sent to explore planets (1996).

We have just entered The Second Machine Age, where robots are invading all areas :

  • There are domestic robots that clean the floor (Roomba), therapeutic dolls (Paro), domestic servants (Asimo), flying cameras that can even be purchased (Phantom), etc.
  • There are robots that repair the human body : the arm or the bionic leg, ocular implant, the artificial heart, the neuro-stimulator, etc.
  • There are industrial robots as K6, Baxter in factories and RoboSimian for interstellar travel.
  • There are military robots to clear the field (Packbot) or fly like the Reaper, Raven, Wasp, Shadow, Predator, etc.
  • There are even some that are sold to children as a kit : Lego for example. Below is an educational use of robots in the classroom :

(See Annual contest DARPA Robotics Challenge, Google projects, those of Amazon, etc.)

Military robots

Generation I (2000):

This is the generation of unmanned robots (drones) or wheels (for clearance, etc.), remotely controlled by operators. It involves a combination of GPS, gyroscope, of wireless, Wi-Fi, radar, infrared cameras, detection sensors and ground stations. In fact, UAVs are push-button killers whose use is like playing a video game (the model used by the CIA is the Targeting Killing, that is to say, extrajudicial executions). They were created for asymmetric warfare (a well-equipped army in front of local insurrections).

As of the spring of 2017, Singapore has announced it will introduce robots for certain policing activities.

Example of a Predator drone firing a Hellfire missile (US Dept. of Defense) :

Drones have completely changed the way wars are conducted, creating action without risk to the military but with enormous collateral damage to civilians. From 2006 on, drones have been manufactured in exponentially larger quantities and have become an industry in over 60 countries. This is of course related to a business model focused on security (chapter 6, no. 17).

In 2013, the US army already had 7,000 drones and 12,000 unmanned vehicles; Moreover, it was at that time training three hundred times more unmanned drones than actual pilots. With these robots, an army can possibly win the war but not peace; indeed, they now pose several problems, because international rules of war are not clear about the use of robots (as the CIA and the FBI benefit) (See International Exhibition of annual or AUVSI unmanned systems).

Generation II (2010):

The emerging generation of MAVs are much smarter and semi-autonomous. These are small robots the size of a butterfly, which are developed through miniaturization, nanotechnology and possessing embedded intelligence. They can be assembled for a few hundred dollars, and even by individuals. Not far behind, we have already seen arrive nano robots the size of a wasp (RFID flying kind).

Example of a nano drone on the tip of a finger :

Now, several companies are developing solar drones capable of monitoring and support for telecommunications (flying at an altitude of 20 000 m with a stable experience of hundreds of flight hours). They are called Haps (or high-altitude pseudo-satellites). They will be used for military or humanitarian operations (to replace communications infrastructure destroyed during an earthquake, for example). See Zephyr Project, Titan Airbus or Google who will use these drones to spread Internet access around the world, especially in inaccessible areas.

Generation III (2020?):

It will be a generation of increasingly autonomous robots, with all the dangers that this may cause. Currently, we try to create autonomous robot swarms in the laboratory – training a dozen micro-robots capable of thinking in order to access a collective intelligence (but will that control the workflow ?) There will be fighting robots capable of recognizing faces, shooting a bullet, etc., interpreting images and killing people (Asimov’s 3 Laws ?)