Where humans cannot reach, robots arrive. And they are already among us!

(To Gianluca Celentano)

Talking about robotics opens up an almost endless field as it is now a reality and an inevitably near future for humanity in all areas of technology, including the military one. Among the first names that appear in research on robotic engineering there is undoubtedly that of Boston Dynamics AI Institute founded in 1992 by computer engineer Marc Raiber, former professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Raiber focused his attention on animals, understanding the possibility and usefulness of replicating their movements in order to create "machines" for specific uses. A scientific approach pioneered by Leonardo da Vinci, a careful observer of birds to understand their movements and create a flying prototype. The best-known product of Boston Dynamics è Atlas, the humanoid robot capable of doing jumps and somersaults while grabbing objects, but the mission of the American giant is: to create exceptional robots that enrich people's lives.

In firm observance of the three fundamental laws of robotics created by Isaac Asimov, there are now several companies that produce intelligent machines also for industry, and not necessarily with human resemblances, i.e. androids.

Robots and collaborators

Robots are divided into two categories, real robots and "cobots", i.e. collaborative machines capable of working together with humans. Robots, on the other hand, are autonomous as they are capable of following a precise program based on artificial intelligence. It is more complex to understand where the cobot ends and a robot begins, but certainly we all have a very useful cobot at home: the washing machine.

La iRobot Corporation American sells harmless household cleaners, but also produces for the tactical sector PacBote, a mine-detecting mini-track used in Iraq and Afghanistan; the IDF Israel Defense Forces is instead the producer of the Jaguar, which is not a luxurious and special SUV, but a semi-autonomous robotic land vehicle equipped with a 7,62 mm MAG machine gun that can operate both stationary and moving.

Versatility is a crucial aspect that we have found by analyzing all Defense vehicles and even military robots seem to be "multifaceted".

From the dog to the service for the person

Lightning it is the first robot enlisted in the Carabinieri that has the dynamic characteristics of a medium-sized dog. There Boston Dynamics has focused for a long time on this figure who is traditionally liked by man and inspires trust in him.

The robot dog performs various risky tasks for operators such as: the identification of explosives, chemical and radiological agents, including their difficult detection. Then there are those for civil uses, which as we will see are very curious.

Robotland Milan

I wanted to visit the exhibition of Robotland held until March 27th at Tenoha, a Japanese multifunctional space present in Milan in the Porta Genova area.

As soon as I enter the open space location, after a historic Mazinger Z of small but not too much size, he runs towards me Plateau, a smiling robot on wheels used as a waiter to offer trays of food. But it is not the only one, inside there are more than 25 "machines" for services and entertainment.

The first is Asimo, a robot just over a meter tall that looks like a cross between an astronaut and a stereotypical Martian. It is produced by Honda and is granted to the exhibition by a research center. He has human features and is considered among the most intelligent in the world. Here it is turned off and closed inside a display case, but it appears it can walk and run up to 9 km/h and grab objects. He recognizes people thanks to cameras instead of eyes.

Then, there is Aibo, a little black dog that follows you with its gaze, wags its tail, barks and if you ask for its paw (in Japanese) it gives it to you.

I continue and meet a mini robot programmed to teach the movements of tai chi, he is much more agile than me, and there is no point in emulating him...

The two seals are unique Strike. They are provided by the National Institute of Advanced Science and Technology of Japan for the purposes of pet therapy. They are certified by Guinness World Records as the most therapeutic robots in the world. I remember that our army has also been involved in hippotherapy open to the civilian community for decades.

But it's not over, it's there InjuryU-2 who blesses in all the languages ​​of the world. He observes me, quotes me a passage from Saint Matthew and sends me away in peace...

A little further on it's coffee time and, next to an ABB articulated arm, there's another one that takes a coffee pod, prepares it for me and kindly hands it to me. Compared to the many videos of Boston Dynamics where androids walk and jump, here everything is actually quite still but certainly interesting. The internal collaborators are very helpful students who take advantage of the university credit initiative.

In the shop windows there are other robots with disturbing aspects, but they are now at home and that's it Pepper with whom I am most familiar. “He” is a small android on wheels with a tablet on his “chest”. He wants to shake my hand and hug me at the end of the conversation. Of course I accept.

In short, what can I say... artificial intelligence is something spectacular and useful to man that we will have to deal with. The friendliness of these machines comes from programming which is the best aspect of our intelligence, which we should understand to remain human also and above all in software programs.

Photo: author