I Robot Movie
Can Robots Really Take Over?

The I Robot Movie is inspired by the I Robot book from Isaac Asimov.

The book is a collection of short stories about a society where advanced humanoid robots were made possible, but they are safely restricted by the 3 laws: to protect humans, obey to humans and, if possible, protect themselves.

But these laws often have unpredictable consequences, and it happens again in I Robot Movie where robots seem to go out of control. In addition to this mess, a robot seems to have no care for the 3 laws, and even pretend to have a name (Sonny) and dreams.

Can Robots Turn Against Humans in the Real World?

The truth is that robots are already used in war to kill people. While they are still remote controlled by pilots, more and more processing is done onboard, and they are allowed more and more freedom to take the final decision of shooting by themselves.

Why are they given more freedom like that? Because they can process information much faster than humans and react much faster, which is sometimes crucial during the mission.

Can robots go crazy in the real world?

While they are given some freedom on the technical decisions during the mission, they still have mission orders and no part in the strategy. Their decisions are limited to target recognition (is it really the target in sight?) and timing (when is the best time to shoot?).

Right now, statistical machines are sometimes helping doctors with diagnostics. You feed them with the symptoms, and they guess using past statistics what may be the cause. IBM plans to do this with its supercomputer Watson.

We could imagine that in the future, we would have computer advisors for military strategies, a little like the Viki super-computer in the I Robot Movie. The idea of such super-computer advisors are coming from some of Isaac Asimov original novels, where they are taking care of the management of the economoy.

Let's compare more the technology from the movie and reality.

I Robot Movie Technology: the Reality-Check

I wonder if IBM Watson is not even bigger than Viki...
I Robot Movie: Supercomputer Viki

The movie has a lot of great ideas, and is very well inspired. Let's see their brand new robots like Sonny: they are powered with artificial muscles that look pretty much like what Festo is doing. It's also been concluded recently that the usual electric motors are not good enough to make legged robots. So they were definitely well advised when they created the robots for the movie.

For a super-computer like Viki, the only exaggeration is the super holographic screen. The rest is pretty much believable, and super-computers like Watson from IBM may reach this stage in the following decades.

I also liked the idea of the robots having an "up-link" to the mother company, as they call it in the I Robot Movie. I even think they are a little late on that, since cloud computing for robots is already becoming increasingly popular. It makes perfect sense that robotics companies will keep their robot connected to gather data and enable upgrades.

Look at all these muscles

I loved the robotic arm of Will Smith, though you don't really see the mechanics. It does make for some good scenes. Today, some experimental Bionic Arms are being tested, but they are not ready for you. It might take another decade or two. Exoskeletons are being deployed already (wearable robots), so hopefully bionic arms that replace missing limbs will be available some day.

Driver-less cars, or robotic cars, are being made today by Google and many other research labs. Some companies like Volkswagen have started commercializing cruise control options that let you relax on the high-way. It won't be long before we think people like Detective Snooper who drive manually are actually crazy.

Finally the least likely technology is maybe the humanoid robots and their artificial intelligence. There is great debate right now about humanoid robots, their use, the space they take and their price: why having a humanoid robot at home when a team of cheap specialized robots can do it easier and stay nearly invisible? With up to 9 billion people on Earth in the 21st century, do you really want to add a billion humanoids? Plus, the autonomy they show in the movie is way more advanced than anything we have.

Finally, isn't this scene the most unlikely of the movie?

More about Robot movies and cartoons:

The truth about the R2D2 robot and C3PO. What made the success of this awesome robot? Also, how to get one?

Here are my 3 favorite Robot films. I love when people disagree with me, so I added a form for you to participate and add your own list.

Robots and Artificial Intelligence: can robots feel emotions? What are emotions? Why do we have them? Can we make robots more reasonable by making them emotional?!

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