Who Could Create Personal Robots Better than Apple?

Ava from Ex Machina
Credit: DNA Films

A tremendous amount of science fiction lore has built up our expectations of personal robots. And today, a great deal of research is being poured into artificial intelligence and robot mechanics. But we're still nowhere close to the "Data" of Star Trek or "Ava" of Ex Machina . Which company is worthy to tackle that challenge? Might it be Apple?


Recently, our Jeff Gamet reported: "Cantor Fitzgerald analyst Brian White thinks Apple Watch will outpace all other new product launches, and he says Apple is innovating on a scale unlike anything it's done before." Mr. White also had a surprising comment, one that I hadn't seen before from an analyst.

Mr. Gamet continued. "Mr. White used reports of an Apple car project to underscore his belief that innovation is in full swing at the company. He thinks that could lead the company down the path of personal robotics, too. " [Emphasis sections are mine.]

The relationship between humans and robots is a subject that goes way back in science fiction, and I won't even begin to get into that here. But what's important is that if Apple were to think about creating personal robots, it would be a major, major challenge unlike anything Apple has ever attempted. Perhaps as massive as the original U.S. moon landing (in current dollars). Just one major example of the massive challenge is the current movie, Ex Machina. The Verge points out that this is a...

... deft, thought-provoking piece of filmmaking that asks tough questions about technology, gender, and — like some of the very best science fiction — the inherent deficiencies in human nature itself.

As our cultural and technical understanding of personal robots matures throughout the decades, there comes a time when we see the fantasies of the past as being not ready for prime time. Premature. The key question is, are we ready now?

Moreover, If Apple is spending billions of R&D dollars on the rumored Apple Car, think what the costs would be to develop personal robots correctly. What kind of safeguards and advanced programming would be required to instantiate Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics without fail? We could hope to say good-bye to the dramatic specters of murder and disaster of all those old science fiction movies.

Who else but Apple? Who else has the money? Who else would we trust?

Next page: the tech news debris for the week of May 4.

Page 2 - The Tech News Debris for the Week of May 4

With my Apple Watch order still in the processing state, I have been collecting articles, here and there, that look helpful. That is, besides the excellent ones here at The Mac Observer. Here are some others.

1. Dan Moren at Macworld writes "What can your Apple Watch do without your iPhone?"

2. Susie Ochs, also at Macworld looks at Apple Watch apps. "Every built-in Apple Watch app, ranked best to worst."

Oops! I'm not quite done with the Apple Watch.

Wired has a nice follow-up to the Consumer Reports testing of the scratch resistance of the Ion-X glass and sapphire used on the Apple Watch. The article goes into the kind of stainless steel Apple uses and its properties compared to other types. It's a good read. "Yeah, the Apple Watch Scratches—All Stainless Steel Watches Do."

Have you thought about the the enterprise opportunities for the Apple Watch? Jonny Evans at Computerworld has. It's an OMG moment. "Now even Apple Watch is an enterprise product."

Okay, time to move on.

The infamous Comcast customer service call "from hell" that was recorded and went viral may have had an influence on Comcast executives. After all, there's no reason why, in principle, a company's customer service department can't be helpful, courteous and respectful. Like Apple's.

And so, this week, I was pleased to see this announcement from Comcast. "Comcast Creates More Than 5,500 New Jobs As Part Of Multi-Year Customer Experience Transformation." To quote:

Comcast today announced a new, multi-year plan to reinvent the customer experience and to create a culture focused on exceeding customers’ expectations, at all levels of the company....

"This transformation is about shifting our mindset to be completely focused on the customer. It’s about respecting their time, being more proactive, doing what’s right, and never being satisfied with good enough," said Neil Smit, President and CEO, Comcast Cable. "We’re on a mission and everyone is committed to making this happen."

We shall see.

Did you know that some of the most notable computer languages of the past were created by women? Fascinating reading at IT World "9 programming languages and the women who created them."

What should be notable features of a tablet computer? Speed? Display resolution? Battery life? Thinness? Reliable and secure OS? Sure. And does anyone out there think an iPad isn't durable? To a point?

My wife dropped her iPad mini, and the top of the screen cracked such that small splinters of glass could shear off or cut the finger. So we went to Zagg at the mall and had a screen protector put on. The camera works, the display works, and it's almost as good as new. But, alas, one can damage an iPad if not careful.

Even so, durability is not one of the features we focus on because taking care of a precision instrument is matter of course. Evidently, Amazon thinks we need a more durable tablet, the Fire HD, and is making durability a marketing thing. Who could have seen that coming?

Finally, if you've been wondering what Apple is up to with streaming music, check this interesting and sourced piece from Business Insider. "Taylor Swift may have given us a huge clue about Apple's plans to hurt Spotify."

That's a wrap for this week. Let's see: personal robots, Apple Watch and Taylor Swift. Yep, that oughta do it.


Particle Debris is a generally a mix of John Martellaro's observations and opinions about a standout event or article of the week (preamble on page one) followed by a discussion of articles that didn't make the TMO headlines, the technical news debris. The column is published most every Friday except for holidays.