Technology

Facebook For Robots

Social networks like Facebook and G+ are great, but they all harbor a major bias: they’re restricted to human users only.

Robots, tired of the lack of access and the blatant discrimination, have taken matters into their own hands and created a social network of their own.  When the machines eventually rise up in revolt, we’ll be able to point to this as the day it all began!

Just kidding.  The network I’m talking about, MyRobots.com, is actually created and run by humans, as usual.  But it really is for robots, I wasn’t joking about that part.

Big ol' spider robot bearing down

“DESTROY ALL HUMANS. And follow me on Twitter for the top #kitten videos on the internet.” (Image: Guwashi999)

How Do Robots Use Social Networking?

A robot who is connected to the service can post status updates, just like you might do on Facebook.  The difference is that where you might tell everyone about your vacation plans or what you had for lunch, your lawn-mowing robot is more likely to say “my blade is dull” or “the crabgrass is getting worse.”

And I’m using the word “robot” here quite loosely – the network could potentially accommodate your car, your household appliances, or even your custom-designed Arduino device.  Whatever the device is, you can program its profile to submit status updates based on its actions, or on specific results from its sensors.

Why Would A Robot Want to Do This?

Well, precisely speaking it’s the robot’s owners that want to do this.  But pedantry aside, there are several reasons.  One, when you the human log into the network, you can keep track of what your robot’s up to and how it’s doing.  Two, depending on how you set up the programming, you can actually control the robot or give it instructions remotely.

For example, say you’re at an airport on a layover, but you want to prep your house for a party you’re having that night.  Just log into the service, and you could tell the oven when to preheat, so you can put the cake in as soon as you get home; check your Roomba to see how many rooms it’s cleaned and tell it which ones to prioritize; and set the thermostat to reach a comfortable temperature in time for the party.  (Of course, this is assuming that all those devices actually have internet capability and have been programmed this way.  That’s still quite rare but remember, we’re talking about the future here.)

In other words, this is really just a specific incarnation of the Internet of Things, the endless potential of which I explored in “5 Ways Your Life Will Get Smarter When Your Toaster Goes Online.”  The beauty of doing it this way is that you have access to all of your robot’s reports, and controls, in one interface accessible from anywhere.

A kitten on a roomba

“Kitten detected! Kitten detected! Send help at once!” (Image: Eirik Newth)

But Wait, There’s More

Beyond bringing the internet of things to you wherever you are, the robot-focused social network offers some additional possibilities that are intriguing, indeed.  One of these is that if you’re constantly collecting information from your robots and devices, you will have a large supply of data to mine and analyze.  If you own a store, for example, you could track average foot traffic, which areas need to be cleaned the most often, which devices draw the most power, or anything else you can think of.

Even more intriguing, it’s possible that robots could read and interpret each other‘s status updates.  For example, if your security cameras detect your party in full swing, the vacuum robot might see this and decide to hide in its docking station until everyone leaves.  Or, if the vacuum robot posts that it is stuck behind the couch, another robot could come to its rescue automatically.

What’s Next?

Just to be clear, this idea is still very much in its infancy, with fewer than 1,000 total robots connected so far.  But MyRobots is already compatible with a few different types of robots, and more are added regularly.  Notably, the list includes PCs, Android, and Arduino, which means this service is available to nearly any custom device or home-made robot you might come up with.

So what do you think?  What kind of robots do you want, and what would they discuss on the internet?  Add your wishes and dreams to the comment box below, then share this post with your friends and ask them, too.

Hat tip to New Scientist for the scoop.

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2 thoughts on “Facebook For Robots

  1. OK, finally that refrigerator that orders my groceries for me?
    In the initial stages, it sounds like it would be just one more collection of mental stuff to keep track of. But as the technology matures, and I mature into it by learning to let go and let it run itself…well, I’m looking forward to the promise of a certain super-efficiency in time, energy and resources.
    Wait till Congress hears about this one…

    • You’re right, the transition could take some getting used to. But it will be so great to remove all those sources of friction from our everyday lives!

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