How Close Are We to Having Star Wars like Droids?

How Close Are We to Having Star Wars like Droids?
Posted at 5:30 PM, Feb 01, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-02 12:51:49-04

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TALLAHASSEE, FL (WTXL) - In this day and age, robots continue to evolve, become more advanced, and are integral to many aspects of our modern lives. But are they on the same level as the "electric" characters featured in the Star Wars movie franchise?

The FSU Center for Intelligence Systems, Control and Robotics (CISCOR) knows a thing or two about droids and robots.

Dr. Emmanuel Collins, the chair of the FSU Department of Mechanical Engineering, works with CISCOR. He has also seen the Star Wars movies and knows a lot about the modern day limits of today's robots.

"Currently the state of legged robots is not as advanced. They're not nearly as robust as what you see in Star Wars," said Collins, "What you see on Star Wars is, for example, four-legged robots that have a lot of dexterity."

That isn't the only problem you run into when comparing our robo-tech to what is portrayed in the films. R2-D2 and C3PO never seem to recharge their batteries, something today's robots can't avoid.

"They still spend a lot of energy. They probably cannot operate for hours, maybe only minutes," said Collins.

That means it would be virtually impossible for current robots to travel to Alderaan, let alone the deserts of Tatooine without a pit stop at a power outlet.

"Where you really differ from Star Wars and reality is the intelligence of the robots," said Collins.

Ram Moore is a student at SAIL High School and is also a member of the "Octo-Pi-rates", a high school group that designs and builds robots competitively.

"I guess you could assume that a droid is similar to an android", said Moore, "Which is referred to in other sorts of books and movies as, like an intelligent robot, so a robot that could think and have feelings."

Collins explains that robots in movies often show human-like thinking abilities; for example, R2-D2 often displays sadness, happiness, and even excitement. Robots on Earth are not quite there yet.

"The ability to do abstract thinking and abstract decision making, that is currently somewhat unique to humans," said Collins.

That means while robots today can continue to "show" emotion, genuine feelings are a little ways off.

"They all have to be programmed to do such and it's hard to make them do multiple things really well," said Moore.

But is there a chance that in our lifetimes we can see robots that are genuinely human-like?

"In terms of the robotic mechanisms, I think that we're very close to having that type of technology right now," said Collins.

But he added, "I don't think we'll see them walking in the street, interacting with people in very unstructured situations."