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I, Quantum Robot

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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Though the concept of the robot seems to be a modern and a relatively new idea, they have been around for years. The first recording in literature of a possible description of the robot is found in the Iliad in reference to a “a three-legged cauldron that had ears for handles”. Later on, in 1900, we were introduced to Tik-Tok in Frank Baum’s Wizard of Oz. The word robot was first used in 1920 by the Czech writer Karel Čapek in his play R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots). This would be the first dramatization of a robot under this name. However, robots would come to life and be used for practical purposes in 1962. General Motors was the first company to use a robot for industrial purposes.

Since then, robots have been used in many ways. They have come in all shapes and sizes. They have been used in the medical field, the armed forces, and in the space program.

Now as we face the 21st century, technology evolves more. A new kind of robot is being studied and researched. This robot is called the quantum robot.

The quantum robot is the idea of combining quantum theory with robot technology. In other words, it is a practical use of the combination of quantum computing and robot technology. Quantum computing involves using quantum systems and quantum states to do computations.

A robot is an automated machine that is capable of doing a set of complex tasks. In some applications of robots, the programming used to run the robots may be based on artificial intelligence. Artificial Intelligence is the ability of a computer system to operate in a manner similar to human intelligence. Think of artificial intelligence as if you were training a machine to act like a human. Essentially, quantum robots are complex quantum systems.They are mobile systems with on board quantum computers that interact with their environments. Several programs would be involved in the operation of the robot. These programs would be quantum searching algorithms and quantum reinforcement learning algorithms.

Quantum reinforcement learning is based on superposition of the quantum state and quantum parallelism. A quantum state is a system that is a set of quantum numbers. The four basic quantum numbers represent the energy level, angular momentum, spin, and magnetization. In the superposition of quantum states, the idea is to get one state to look like another.

Let’s say I have two dogs. One dog knows how to fetch a bone (energy level), sit up (angular momentum), give a high five (spin), and shake hands (magnetization). Now, let’s apply the superposition of quantum states. Since one dog has been trained and given the commands, the other dog must learn to mimic or copy what the first dog did. Each time a command is achieved, reinforcement is given. The reinforcement for the dog would be a bone (or no bone if the command is not achieved).

In quantum reinforcement learning, it is slightly different. The idea would be similar to an “If-Then” statement. An example would be if the quantum state has a certain energy level, then the angular momentum is certain value. This idea of “If-Then” statements in the quantum world leads to an idea which can be a topic of its own; Quantum Logic.

Quantum parallelism simply means that computations can happen at the same time. This allows for all of the quantum numbers of the quantum system to be measured at the same time. If there are multiple quantum systems then; by using the concept of parallelism, all systems can be measured at the same time.

Programs used for “quantum searching” are based on quantum random walks. Quantum random walks use probability amplitudes. A probability amplitude allows us to determine that there is more than one possible quantum state. In the classical world, if you type a word “Quantum” in the search engine, you get many results. You may have a tough time finding a needle in a haystack if you use just one word, but if you want to refine your search; let’s say “Quantum Random Walks”, then it narrows the search. The same principle applies in quantum computing to get more refined results. However, you are not necessarily searching for words but you are finding information that may correlate to a quantum state.

What would be the advantages of the Quantum Robot over the Robot?

Quantum robots are more intricate in examining their environments and doing tasks as they apply quantum effects . Because of the complexity in quantum computing, the expectations of the quantum robots would be that they are faster, more accurate, and are able to multitask better than the standard robot.

The quantum robots may be able one day to give us better medical diagnoses and better data interpretation in other research fields such as defense research. In medicine, they may be able to detect pathological changes in the body by being injected through the bloodstream. In the space program, they may be able to examine the delicate environments on other planets. In the military, they may be able to detect changes in the magnetic and electric fields. They may be able to help us detect early warnings of disasters more efficiently.

Joel Taylor About the Author: Joel Taylor grew up in Siskiyou County, California. He attended Yreka High School in Yreka, California. After that, he attended College of the Siskiyous in Weed, California and then transferred to Southern Oregon University in Ashland, Oregon where he graduated with a Bachelor's of Science in Physics. Since then, he has had his own tutoring and research company. He has also worked at the Maryland Science Center in Baltimore, Maryland. Joel is also a member of the American Physical Society and American Institute of Physics. Follow on Twitter @Joel_a_taylor.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.






Comments 4 Comments

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  1. 1. wdemoss1 10:58 am 03/24/2013

    Does anyone else highly doubt that the passage from the Iliad actually refers to a “robot” or even a D’Vinci like automata, and not an elaborately decorated iron cauldron with “ears for handles”? If you follow the link to the text and use find with the word cauldron you will easily see that all throughout the text iron cauldrons are offering as greatly valuable bargaining chips and prizes. A few dozen kilos of iron at that time would represent possibly thousands of man hours of labor to produce. The particular passage about the cauldron with ears for handles has Achilles giving away the cauldron as prize in a chariot race, “The first prize he offered was for the chariot races- a woman skilled in all useful arts, and a three-legged cauldron that had ears for handles, and would hold twenty-two measures.” It even shows the volume the vessel will hold, says nothing about movement or mechanisms, and is only mentioned that one time with, described exactly like iron cauldrons are throughout the text.

    It is highly dubious that this refers to what we would think of as a robot or even the types of geared automata that have been produced throughout history.

    Link to this
  2. 2. phoenix91125 6:25 pm 03/24/2013

    Hmm, I don’t know, having handles that look ears makes me wonder if it is descriptive of a robotic mechanism. Part of science is the use of imagination, I think the author is pretty good at this.Made me think!

    Link to this
  3. 3. phoenix91125 7:46 pm 03/24/2013

    You might want to read the word “possible” in reference to the description of the robot

    Link to this
  4. 4. eltodesukane 3:31 pm 09/15/2014

    “a three-legged cauldron that had ears for handles”.
    I would never call that a robot.

    Link to this

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