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Robo Sapiens: Evolution of a New Species (A Material World Book) Paperback – 10 Oct 2001

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Product details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: MIT Press; New Ed edition (10 Oct. 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262632454
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262632454
  • Product Dimensions: 21.6 x 1.3 x 27.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,043,855 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

If you believe the children are our future, you're only half right. Photographer Peter Menzel and journalist Faith D'Aluisio travelled around the world interviewing researchers who want to jump-start our evolution by designing and building electrical and mechanical extensions of ourselves--robots. Their book, Robo Sapiens, takes its title from the notion that our species might somehow merge with our creations, either literally or symbiotically. The photography is brilliant, showing the endearing and creepy sides of the robots and roboticists and feeling like stills from unmade science fiction films. D'Aluisio's interviews are full of insight and often very funny, as when she quotes MIT's superstar Rodney Brooks on his statement that we ought not "overanthropomorphise" people. Brooks is an interesting study; having shaken up the robotics and artificial intelligence fields with his elimination of high-level intelligence and dedication to tiny, insectoid, built-from-the-ground-up robots, he now works on large, human-mimicking machines. But hundreds of other researchers, in Japan, Europe, and the US, are working on various aspects of machine behaviour, from the eerily lifelike robotic faces of Fumio Hara and Alvaro Villa to the monkey-like movement of Brachiator III; each of them casts a bit of light on the future of their field in their short interviews. Though it's clear that we shouldn't hold our breath waiting for a robot butler, Robo Sapiens suggests that much cooler--and stranger--events are coming soon. --Rob Lightner --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


"An engaging and insightful compendium illuminating our accelerating ascent to the inevitable merger of human and machine. Although many today find the prospect disconcerting, by the time the robo sapiens are fully amongst us, we will find it very natural to interact intimately with these inventions of our intellect." Ray Kurzweil, recipient of the 1999 National Medal of Technology and author of the Age of Spiritual Machines: When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence "This is one of the most mind-stretching--and frightening--books I'veever read. It's also a tour de force of photography: the images reveala whole new order of creation about to come into existence. No one whohas any interest in the future can afford to miss it." Sir Arthur C. Clarke " Robo sapiens is a fascinating, in-depth look at one of the most challenging engineering tasks ever attempted. The photos amaze, while the text gives the inside story of researchers bashing their heads up against boggling complexity. You pick up Robo sapiens for the great photos, and then get caught up reading the inside politics of the race to build human-like machines. Don"t be surprised by the coming era of robotics read Robo sapiens and be ready." K. Eric Drexler , Chairman, Foresight Institute, and author, Engines of Creation and Nanosystems

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 8 April 2001
Format: Hardcover
This book is a really solid foray into robotics. It looks at many of the really interesting developments around the world, particularly focussing on machines that mimic the biological world in construction. For me, it lacks two major areas. The first is that fails to discuss in much detail the fact that the mechanisms are interesting, but their future in our world is dependent on the level of machine intelligence which can be imbued into each device, and the second is the financial realities of robots. Simply put, non-industrial robots are currently an academic pursuit. Tangible applications will take years more to become viable for most of these technologies.
A very solid read, and fascinating for what it is. An excellent coffee table book as well as informative. The main issue is how fast it will become dated.
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By Dan Ronco on 22 Dec. 2003
Format: Paperback
They can climb stairs, juggle balls, open a door, smile engagingly, hear and see, swing like a monkey, crawl like a crab and swim like a fish. Who? Why the robots, of course. This startling picture book explores the amazing scope of robot capabilities. The photographs of the robots and their creators provide a unique picture of the dawn of these intelligent machines. The narratives are brief and to the point, explaining just enough but always remaining as support for the pictures. As I thumbed through this book, it became clear that the development of humanlike robots will come one project at a time, not by a thunderous breakthrough from a single genius working in a dark lab. Definitely buy this book; there's nothing quite like it.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 16 reviews
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
A good read that is also a great coffee table book 17 Jan. 2001
By Douglas Welzel - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Robo sapiens is a collection of short interviews with people from all over the field of robotics. Each interview is at most a couple of pages long and is accompanied by beautiful pictures as well as supplementary commentary by the interviewers. The interviews themselves are pretty lightweight. You'll get some idea of what people are working on in the field, but don't expect anything in depth. Overall the book is a good, lightweight read. You can pick it up and read an interview or two and then not touch it for a couple of days. Some reviews have suggested this is a bad thing, but I think it is exactly what the book intends to provide.The book itself is rather large and contains beautiful photographs that have an artistic element to them. This adds to the browseability of the book and makes it something you might want to leave out for others.
19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
A beautiful album to browse and contemplate 23 Sept. 2000
By Amir Karniel - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Fifty years ago at the beginning of modern computers scientists predicted that within a few years robots would do the housekeeping and then we would start to try and figure out intelligence tasks such as playing the game of chess. Today we realize that "Simple" tasks such as playing with a ball are much more difficult for artificial machines than many "intelligent" tasks such as playing a game of Chess. I believe that any attempt to produce a genuine artificial intelligence must first address the motor control aspects of our intelligence and therefore I was thrilled to see this book, which explore and glorify the robotics and the motor control research. In one look you are amazed by the modern technology, but then you look again and see that these robots are still struggling to achieve the very basic skills that every child can easily muster. Then you realize that this album really glorify the biological creatures that these robots strive to imitate. We have a long way to go before we reach the prediction of "robo sapience" which is defined in this book as "A hybrid species of human and robot with intelligence vastly superior to that of purely biological mankind". Nevertheless technology did make amazing leaps in the past and it might do it again in the future. I am looking forward to browse this book again at the end of the century with a semi artificial body and mind.
Indeed you don't have to agree with the authors' perspective, as suggested by another reviewer, and indeed, as the authors admit, it is not complete. Still it is a beautiful presentation of the robotics research of our days with magnificent pictures and a fascinating futuristic concept that is encapsulated by its title.
Let me conclude with the words of Sir Arthur C. Clarke from the back cover of the book: "This is one of the most mind-stretching-and frightening-book I've ever read. It's also a tour de force of photography: the images reveal a whole new order of creation about to come into existence. No one who has any interest in the future can afford to miss it."
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
The robots are coming... 12 April 2002
By Dr. Lee D. Carlson - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In view of the news last week that Kevin Warwick, one of the roboticists talked about in this book, had a chip imbedded permanently under his skin, this book takes on a profound significance. The book includes interviews with some of the major researchers in robotics and artificial intelligence, and has many beautiful photographs. In addition to the news of Warwick's operation, other news of exciting advances in robotics have been reported in the technicial journals and in the news media in recent months. And with the advent of robot toys and a Hollywood movie about artificial intelligence, it seems that robotics has taken us by storm. These developments are indeed exciting, for those working in the field of artificial intelligence, and those that are not, and even though there is perhaps a long way to go before we are priveleged to be among autonomous thinking machines working and playing among us, we are witnessing a good beginning. Indeed we are very lucky to be in a time when the dreams of the researchers in artificial intelligence are finally beginning to be realized, even at a modest level. This book is, thankfully, optimistic in its appraisal of robotics, and as the name of it implies, it has a somewhat different viewpoint on its future. Robots, it contends, will not necessarily be separate independent entities possessing superior intelligence and physical capabilities. By taking on chips underneath their skin, by using hearing aids, by employing heart defibrillators, by reverse engineering the human brain, and by immersing other devices in their bodies, humans will (slowly?) evolve into a superposition of the biological and mechanical. The robots....
......will be us......
10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Bargain for those who love 'bots 16 Oct. 2000
By Christopher Burian - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I bought this book for the pictures, and I'm not disappointed. The grainy pictures viewed in hard-to-find magazines, or worse, published only on the web, don't do justice to the amazing creations of robotics experimenters. My only (admittedly frivolous) complaint is that it's not true coffee-table-book sized. Packed with original content, Robo sapiens beats every other glossy general audience robot book I've ever seen.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Robo sapiens - great title, awful book 30 Dec. 2000
By Glenn Rimbey - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The authors traveled a lot to get their interviews but the resulting book is a big disappointment. I got the impression that they were more interested in making some clever photos than producing a good piece of work on the subject of robotics. To be fair, there were a few items of interest but they didn't make the book worthwhile. The format of the book is interviews which makes the reading rather boring, the content disorganized, and any meaningful information very difficult to find. If you are interested in robotics, this book is not for you.
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