How androids will become part of our lives

Image: Albert Hubo and David Hanson
Roboticist David Hanson faces the camera with a robot named Albert Hubo, which was developed with the assistance of South Korean scientists. Hanson is the one on the right. (Credit: Hanson Robotics)

Artificial intelligence and robots are hot topics right now, but will we ever get to the stage we saw 50 years ago on “The Jetsons,” where your typical household could have a robotic maid named Rosie?

Robotics pioneer David Hanson says yes, and he thinks it’ll take less than 50 more years. That’s the prediction he delivered on Wednesday during a Skype-enabled panel presentation on the future of AI and robotics in Seattle, sponsored by the MIT Enterprise Forum of the Northwest.

A veteran of Disney’s imagineering operation, Hanson has produced custom-made robot heads that are capable of eerily humanlike expressions. Now Hanson has relocated to Hong Kong, where he’s gearing up to unveil a line of production-model robots that take advantage of recent AI advances as well as the toymaking prowess of the Pearl River Delta.

He’s not yet ready to say how much those robots will cost. That will come later this year. But he foresees a day when humanoid robots will cost as much as cars.

“It is possible that we can get the cost down to tens of thousands of dollars for walking, humanoid robots that can grasp and manipulate,” he said from Hong Kong. “They can perform as well as the robots like the KAIST DARPA Robotics Challenge grand prize winner.”

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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