CAMBRIDGE, MA – Students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have succeeded in building a robot with artificial intelligence capable of performing a job previously believed to be impossible for a robot; pressing an elevator button.
Called UPPER, short for User Programmed Personal Elevator Robot, the robot can press an elevator button without being guided to do so by a human.
“Never in a million years did we think that we would be able to design a robit that can do something like this,” said UPPER lead programmer, John Soidberg. “Forget that robit that can fold socks. That is so yesterday. This robit can take you to where you need to go. If, of course, you’re in a building with an elevator. And that elevator happens to have an UPPER. And if you’ve been trained on how to use UPPER. But still, this robit is the most amazing piece of technology that has ever been created.”
Once an elevator passenger is in the elevator with UPPER, the person can select the floor of their destination from a series of buttons on the side of the UPPER and the UPPER will then press the corresponding floor button on the elevator controls. The entire process takes 45 minutes to complete.
“Once you’ve let the robit know where you want to go the process is all handled by the robit’s central computing,” said Soidberg. “First, of course, you need to turn on the UPPER because the robit can’t turn itself on! That would be looney tunes! Once it has fully powered up, an elevator rider just needs to select the number of the floor they need to go to from a series of numbered buttons on the side of the robit. That’s it! That’s all the elevator rider has to do. Well, of course you then need to press the ‘GO’ button but that’s pretty standard for all technology. Now the ‘Go’ button doesn’t actually make the robit go per se, it puts the robit into ‘ready’ mode. No, when the robit is ready, that’s when you hit the ‘Start’ button. Only 25 minutes later, BOOM! The UPPER will push the button.”
The UPPER takes up three quarters of the average elevator, leaving room for one or two additional passengers.
“It’s a little big, but think of all the cool things that we can do with this robot,” said John Garmin, a robotics engineer at MIT. “(The UPPER) is just a jumping off point. Sure it’s a little big but think of the ramifications. If we can build a robot that can press an elevator button we should soon be able to adapt that technology to more commercial uses like… pushing the power buttons on TVs. That would be huge. People would buy a million of those things. The general populace loves new technology and they’ll do just about anything to get to use it. Look at the iPhone. Assholes waited in line for six days to get a new phone that doesn’t even work.”
While unlikely to be adopted by the business world, the development of the UPPER is seen by many in the robotics industry as a “huge leap forward” in technology. Previous attempts to build a robot with similar artificial intelligence have failed in often catastrophic accidents.
“The UPPER was our first success out of many, many attempts,” said Soidberg. “One of our first attempts was a robit that could ask how your day was. We figured that would be the first step towards intelligence. You know, having a robit that would notice that you were there then ask you how your day was. But it got too out of hand. After you responded if you didn’t ask how it’s day was it would get moody then go eat too much ice cream on the couch while watching the ‘Gilmore Girls.’ It was just too much.”
The team at MIT are already at work on the next generation of the UPPER. The team hopes to include at least one additional feature – boobs.
“Next up we’re working on DOWNER, or Digitaly Operated Wireless Network Elevator Robit,” said Soidberg. “The DOWNER will be the same basic robot only you can enter the floor number you want on a digital keyboard prior to getting on the elevator. And it will have boobs. Why boobs? Why not boobs? What good is creating a robit if you aren’t eventually going to put boobs on it?”