Star Wars: The Force Awakens premieres at the end of the week, and UNO robotics professor Raj Dasgupta can remember being amazed by the technologies he saw in the original films. He never thought he would see any of those technologies in his lifetime, however.
“Many of the things we have seen in the original Star Wars are around now,” he said. “Some people are visionaries and are able to see ahead.”
Take the advances we have seen in robotics and UAV’s (unmanned aerial vehicles) as examples, according to Dasgupta.
The character C-3PO was actually based off of a robot called Shakey that was created by Stanford University in 1977, the same year Star Wars: A New Hope was released, Dasgupta said.
Today, the technology exists where someone could create a replica of C-3PO. There are even robots that can play soccer. This is possible because of the advancements made in speech recognition and artificial intelligence, Dasgupta said.
“Essentially, what artificial intelligence has contributed to robots, is that they have made robotic systems autonomous,” he said. “They do not depend on human commands.”
The Empire Strikes Back begins with an unmanned probe droid discovering Luke Skywalker on the icy planet of Hoth. The evil empire used these droids, which are essentially drones, for exploration and military purposes. At the time, nothing like that existed in real life. Nowadays just about anyone can buy a drone of their own.
“Many of the things we have seen in the original Star Wars are around now. Some people are visionaries and are able to see ahead.”
- UNO robotics professor Raj Dasgupta
Dasgupta and a team of graduate students are working on projects for vehicles that can operate autonomously. These experiments involve what is called artificial intelligence planning and reasoning.
The vehicles could be used for unmanned search and rescue missions or even land mine detection. The robots they have developed are able to calculate a route from one destination to another.
Keep an eye on the sky, because according to Dasgupta, “UAV’s are going to take off in a big way.”
Even though robots are Dasgupta’s chosen field, even he can’t help but enjoy the fantasy aspects of the classic sci-fi franchise. He admits it was not C-3PO or R2-D2 that piqued his interested in the original Star Wars trilogy – but the Force itself.
“To be truthful, the thing that I liked most were the lightsaber battles."