Countless TV shows and movies have included a scene in which a team of firefighters, police, or soldiers on a crucial mission burst into a room and in seconds evaluate the scene and spring into action. We’ve all done a less-dramatic version of that in real life, whether we’re shopping, sightseeing or even just deciding if we’re in the right place.
Based on experience, a quick look around provides enough information for us to infer where we’re likely to find the cereal aisle, the box office, or the exit.
Armed with artificial intelligence, robots may soon be able to replicate this thoroughly human trait of quickly sizing up of an environment. A team of computer scientists from the University of Texas at Austin have had success in programming units with a similar skill, which could turn them into highly useful tools for dangerous search-and-rescue missions.
So far, they’ve developed a unit that can stand in a fixed spot and scan in all directions without moving. They’re aiming to produce a robot with full mobility that could quickly detect people, fire, and hazardous materials, and relay that information to rescue workers.
While the immediate goal is to assist in dangerous missions, perhaps the day will come when they have a role in more mundane tasks, such as restocking random items shoppers have abandoned throughout a store. And more jobs may be replaced by robots.
One thing is for sure, artificial intelligence and its uses will continue to intrigue us, fuel research, and cause anxiety about what AI means for workers and local economies. These cities will lose the most jobs to automation.