• Question: Do you believe truely that Robots can be just like a human? Do they have all of the 5 senses?

    Asked by ers0597 to Alan on 23 Mar 2011 in Categories: .
    • Photo: Alan Winfield

      Alan Winfield answered on 23 Mar 2011:

      That’s a very good question. The short answer is no, I don’t think robots can be exactly like humans. However, I do think that in the future android robots could be a very very good copy – perhaps even such a good copy that it would be hard to tell the difference. However, even these robot will always be an artificially created imitation of humans. I wrote another answer here about how long it will take (in my view) before we have robots with human level intelligence http://ias.im/35.1633

      The other part of your question is about sense. In fact humans have more than 5 senses (sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch). We have, for instance, a sense of balance – the thing that stops you falling over when you walk or run. We also have an internal sense of where the parts of our bodies are, in other words you can feel where your arms, hands and so on are in relation to your body. The technical word for this sense is proprioception. In fact, there is alot of disagreement over exactly how many senses humans have – most agree it is at least 7 but some people think we have as many as 30 different senses.

      We can already make robots with the senses of sight (with a camera), hearing (with microphones) and touch. We can give robots a sense of smell with special olfactory chips – although these are not so commonly used in robots. And many robots have senses that humans don’t have, for instance being able to sense distances with infra-red light, or with lasers. Some robots can sense distance using ultrasound – like a bat. We have a robot in our lab – called Scratchbot – that has artificial whiskers so it ‘sees’ by feeling the world around it with it’s whiskers, just like a rat or hamster. So, many robots already have quite a few different senses – even the small robots I use in my research called e-pucks (you can see a picture on my profile) have 4 senses – sight, hearing, touch (with infra-red) and balance. But having said that robots are still far behind most animals in the number of sense organs they have (think of all the millions of nerves in your skin that allow you to feel touch all over your body). Robots are also far far behind animals and humans in being able to make sense of what they see, or hear or feel with their senses.

      I hope this answers your question!