Australian robotic software firm Kadence Photonics has made the world’s first “female” robots. Peter Hill, the founder of Kadence says that after seeing a TV program about the female brain he decided the day after that his line of robots should be based on some of its merits. The female robots differ from other robots in their ability to co-operate and multitask and work toward their goals in a flexible way, whereas in traditional robots on manufacturing lines work on single tasks in sequential order. Or as Dr Hill puts it so elegantly: “If a man does the housework, he’ll load the washing machine then stand there and watch it. A woman will go off and do something else.”
This difference between the male and female brain is proven and was for example portrayed in the book Why Men Don’t Iron, that was also made into a TV series (I wonder if that was the one that Hill saw). The “female” analogy here is still of course just a great way to state what is special about Kadence’s robots and a pretty certain way to grab the media’s attention (not that there is anything wrong with that).
I see this as a step towards where I think robotics and a lot of other technology is destined to go – systems of simple objects (girls, don’t get me wrong!), that interact to work together in a flexible way towards a single goal. Once again an ant colony makes a great analogy, where the simple individual ants work together to make up the complex thing that is the anthill with its entire infrastructure. Methods like these can be flexible, effective, redundant and probably inexpensive as each “module” can be relatively simple and mass produced.
Methods like these could and should work for a lot of manufacturing tasks, but make note however that the more complex problems each “module” can solve and the better understanding it has of the local and overall goals of the system, the more complex tasks it will be able to take on as a whole. Compare construction workers to ants and you quickly see what I mean.