Science & Technology

2002’s Visions From the Future

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Brennan Sellner (R) and Dani Goldberg, students at Carnegie Mellon  University, watch GRACE, a prototype mobile robot, as it moves down a  hall July 15, 2002 at the Robotics Institute of Carnegie Mellon  University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Brennan Sellner (R) and Dani Goldberg, students at Carnegie Mellon University, watch GRACE, a prototype mobile robot, as it moves down a hall July 15, 2002 at the Robotics Institute of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Photo: Chris Hondros (Getty Images)

Humans have been waiting for a robot servant for over a century now. But even with the developments in robotics of the 1980s and ‘90s, they were still just a dream. By the early 2000s, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University invented a robot called GRACE that was going to revolutionize the way humans interacted with our robot pals. But it’s still ridiculously primitive from the perspective of 2022.

The August 1, 2002 edition of the Edmonton Journal included a story about this robot from the future, and it wasn’t very humanoid yet. But that was the entire goal. The robot, as you can see above, could move around and had basic vision capabilities. And a cartoon face was staring back at you in an effort to make humans feel at ease.

“In the future, robots will be there to work with us and we need to be able to interact with them normally,” one of the robotic researchers told the Edmonton Journal.

“Think of a firefighter who sends a robot into a burning building. He is worried about saving lives and doesn’t want to be worried about how to make the robot do what it’s supposed to.”

When this reporter visited the DARPA Robotics Challenge in 2015, he saw plenty of people talking about similar challenges. In fact, whenever the U.S. military is conducting this type of robotics research, the use case presented is almost always saving someone’s life in disaster scenarios. But we know what real the end goal is with these things. It’s not to bring you a Pepsi. It’s world domination.

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