THE FIVE SENSES, AND BEYOND
aided by infrared vision. It can detect tumors, which are warmer than their bodily surroundings, and can remotely measure body tempera- ture.This capability became important during the breakout of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2003, when international trav- elers were screened by testing them for above-normal temperatures that might indicate the high-fever characteristic of the disease.
Add radio waves to the suite of electromagnetic wavelengths that digital beings could sense, and you get another extrahuman mode. One result could be beings that always know exactly where they are. While a robot on Mars needs extraordinary means to determine its location, a unit on Earth could simply incorporate a global positioner—the small electronic device that uses radio signals from orbiting artificial satellites to determine where on the planet it sits, to an accuracy of a few meters. Artificial beings could also have com- plete access to the resources of the Internet, through high-speed wire- less connections, giving them the ability to tap into a world of databases, factual information, news, and much more for the being’s own use or to answer questions from humans.
With radio, artificial beings could also engage in artificial telepa- thy, silently communicating among themselves even when far apart. Recall the brutal worldwide uprising of robots in the play R.U.R., or their sinister swarms in the story “With Folded Hands.” It takes only a touch of paranoia to see robot telepathy as a threat, but the applica- tions thus far have been benign.The best known such application is competitive soccer played by teams of wirelessly linked AIBO robot dogs. Robotic soccer has taught researchers a lot about coordinated robotic behavior, and it has also evolved into an annual World RoboCup event where crowds cheer on their teams, and wait for a player to score a goal and perform a victory dance. Similarly, a big hit of the ROBODEX 2003 exposition in Japan was a robotic ballet.The principal dancers and corps de ballet consisted of tiny inch-tall units, made by the Seiko Epson Corporation. Controlled by a wireless link- age, they gracefully twirled, blinked their LED eyes, and formed per- fectly aligned patterns to the strains of romantic music, as audiences watched enthralled.