factories—the approach taken by the Honda Corporation.The goal might be a true android that,among other humanlike behaviors,walks on two legs and grasps and holds objects, and does so with human- appearing body parts, as might be important for entertainment robots. Or the aim might be to make a being that surpasses human capabili- ties with enhanced strength or speed, a feature that interests the mili- tary, or is designed from an utterly different premise than matching the human body, such as changing its shape to suit the task at hand.
For designers of artificial beings, there is an obvious appeal in selecting the simplest appearance and physical behavior that will do the job. For instance, there are easier means of locomotion than walk- ing.As a kind of controlled fall endlessly caught and repeated, walking requires the ability to sense and maintain bodily balance, which re- quires in turn appropriate sensors and cognitive ability. But no matter what the design or form of its limbs, specific types of sensing and cognition are necessary if the being is to operate in the real world.
For instance, it would be valuable if the Nursebot robot, assisting in caring for the elderly, could follow a human’s instructions such as, “Go to Mr. Smith’s room, ask him if he would like lunch, and if he says yes, guide him to the dining room.”To successfully navigate its way to a specified location, whether externally determined or self- selected, the being needs vision or other means to examine and map its surroundings, knowledge of its present location in that environ- ment, and the ability to plan a workable route from here to there while recognizing and avoiding obstacles, making proper use of door- ways and so on, along the way.
Similar considerations apply to artificial arms, hands, and fingers. They can be correctly positioned to perform their functions only if the artificial being has what is called in humans the kinesthetic sense; that is, the ability to determine where the body part is in space rela- tive to the body itself. And to ensure that a hand is set correctly to safely hold a fragile object, or that an arm exerts enough power to lift a heavy load, the being needs a sense of touch and the ability to sense how much force is required to hold or move an object.