Saturday, March 22, 2008

7.29 HAL 9000

Of course you all recognize this scene from "2001: A Space Odyssey" with Frank Poole (l) and David Bowman both hiding in a pod, discussing HAL 9000's increasingly erratic behavior. Unfortunately, HAL was programmed to read lips and "he" was therefore able to learn the astronauts' intention of pulling his plug, and took steps to eliminate both humans. You can see the cyclopean HAL outside the oval window, and a close-up of HAL's eye:
Notice it does not has a clearly defined pupil, unnecessary in a controlled environment such as the interior of a spaceship, we suppose. In George Lucas's Star Wars, C3PO does not even have pupils only vertical slits.
On the other hand, the eyes of the Terminator (by James Cameron et al, 1984) are quite interesting:
A dying Terminator was actually shown with pupil reflexes gradually dimming with the ebbing (machine) life (when it was being crushed by a hydraulic press). It is quite obvious that careful thoughts have been put into the movie plot. Finally, in "I, Robot (2004, based on Issac Asimov's original work)", human-like eyes appeared:
The ultimate is of course an android named Commander Data of Star Trek TNG; although "he" is simply too human to be credible. It was probably too costly to construct a life-like robotic prop for the TV series.

In real-life, machine vision (MV) using artificial intelligence (AI) techniques, such as expert systems, fuzzy logic, inductive learning, neural networks, genetic algorithms, and swarm intelligence, is no longer a nascent field. For automation, MV has applications in manufacturing of semiconductors, electronics, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, automotive and consumer goods, and also in packaging and facial recognition.

The next challenge is the design and construction of autonomous robots (as opposed to "robots" remotely controlled by humans). In fact, true robots are beginning to make its presence felt. It is, however, a bit disconcerting to see Asimo (by Honda) possessing no discernible eye structures at all:
What gives, really.

Arthur C Clarke (1917-2008), the sci-fi visionary, was actually right - HAL-like lip-reading machines are now being developed. They will be capable of translating audio speech into visual speech, based on light reflected from the moving parts of human speech and the reflection collected by, naturally, machine vision. And the purpose for these machines? Hmm, a very good question.

Just to add more intrigue: Each letter of HAL (Heuristic Algorithmic Computer) is one alphabet before IBM, and the significance of which is still unclear.

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