Humanoid Robot

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"A humanoid robot is a robot with an overall appearance based on that of the human body"(Hirai et al., 1998, Hirukawa et al., 2004). Humanoid robots designs physically resemble the human torso, that means, they have at least arms, legs and a head. Additional human likeness can be achieved through approximate human size and proportions or by mimicking a face by placing input sensors into the head, resembling eyes and ears. Constructing such a robot faces, at today's level of robotics, certain technical problems. Among these problems are battery weight and their short life, noisy sensory input data and nonlinear actuator responses.

To "become like us", a robot should be indistinguishable from humans by non-experts. Like in a Turing Test, an average human should not be able to find out if his opponent is a robot or not by usual interaction. Experts in the field of robotics or artificial intelligence might, however, find out that a certain humanoid is in fact a robot by the means of well-formulated questions or upon deeper investigation of the robots movement. Before one elaborates on the moral question whether we want humanoid robots among humans, and the ethical implications which would arise from this, one should investigate on the motivation needed to design humanlike robots, posing the question: "Why should we want to construct humanoid robots?"

Many industries so far have shown a tendency towards production automation using machines to replace human workers, but the decision to prefer robots over humans is made either on commercial reasoning (robots are cheaper to maintain) or on an ability basis - robots are used for tasks that exceed human possibilities. Both arguments do not support humanoid robots. Humans are multi-purpose workers, and a humanoid robot would have to be able to perform a variety of tasks, like humans can. When money is the issue, there is no reason to invest millions in a product that has a multitude of features that are not needed to perform the tasks considered. Designing humanoid robots to outperform humans in general, so that they can perform a larger variety of tasks, is, in theory, possible. But the newly designed humanoid also has to compete the highly specialised robots that are already available. It is highly unlikely that a robot in humanoid shape will be able to perform both coal excavations and micro-surgery better than its already existing and viability-proven competitors. Industries switched to robots that are specialised on one task, replacing multifunctional human workers. There is no evidence that suggests that this trend will change. Thus, it seems unlikely that industrial robots will ever become more human.

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