Students discuss ideal robotic helpers

Photo by Andrew Saulters

In the midst of a whirlwind of technological advancements, robots continue to gain prevalence in modern society and Tech continues to keep pace in the field.

Focus sat down with students to find out what kinds of robots they would like to see invented in the near future, and the impact that they would have.

Many students suggested robots as a remedy for the repetitive and mundane tasks we deal with every day, from doing laundry to taking out the trash. However, Ashfaque Kachwala, a third-year IE major, has grander aspirations.

“I would like a robot that could teleport me. It would be as big as the entrance to the Georgia Dome and would allow me to teleport from here to India instantaneously, so I could study and attend classes during the day here on campus and go back [to India] at night to see friends and family,” Kachwala said.

Most people would agree that there are just not enough hours in the day, so the idea of cloning oneself is appealing. But because cloning and robotics are not in the same place at this time, Priya Bajaj, a third-year EE major, proposed a robot that would essentially live part of her life for her.

“This robot would do half of my social activities and half of my academic activities, because at Tech I just cannot possibly do both. It could function on my command and change appearance on order,” said Bajaj.

A trend appeared between many students who desired a robot that would take their places.

“How about a robot that would attend my classes, especially on rainy mornings at 8 a.m.? It would take my clicker quizzes for me, but I would take the tests,” said Rahul Castelino, a third-year EE major.

Others, like first-year EE major Sydney Geren, had humbler ambitions for their robotic companions.

“I need a robot that would get me down from my bunk bed because I hate getting down myself. It would rise up from under the bunk, I would roll onto it and it would bring me to the ground. It’s simple enough, really… that would be nice,” Geren said.

Although many of these ideas may not be implemented in the near future, some students presented ideas that are currently being developed. Leah French, a fourth-year PSY major, proposed a robot integrated into a car.

“Mine would be a robot that could drive me places. I drive a lot so it would be nice to be able to take a break. The robot would be built into the car so I could sit in the driver’s seat. That way, in case anything went wrong I could just switch it off,” French said.

Along those lines, because technology is not always dependable, some robots that are otherwise fully capable of being developed are not being produced due to liability issues. For example, a lawn mower that mows the lawn autonomously could cause problems if it malfunctioned.

“I’d like to see a robot invented that would mow my lawn. It would look like a regular lawn mower and would know the boundaries of my yard… though it probably has not been done yet for safety issues. You wouldn’t want an unsupervised spinning blade,” said Vikrum Sheorey, a fourth-year EE major.

Humorous approaches were also taken to the idea of robotic aides. Cole Bevis, a first-year CMPE major, desired a robot that partially mimicked his own mom.

“I would have a robot that would do my laundry, iron it, fold it and put it back in my drawers. It would be small enough to fit in the bottom of my hamper, and I would call it MomBot,” Bevis said.

Bevis was not the only person to propose a laundry assistant. Derek Jett, a fourth-year PUBP major, had a similar idea but went into further detail.

“It would be a personal assistant that would iron my business shirts and suits. I picture an ironing board with two arms. One arm would properly lay each piece of clothing out while the other pressed it. On the top would be a starch container that automatically puts the right about of starch,” Jett said.