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'Thinking' robot's job will be to do the dirty work for man

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A new "graduate" is expected to replace some of the shrinking number of traditional 18- to 22-year-old job-seekers. The new graduate's opportunities are unlimited.

This graduate routinely takes jobs too dangerous or tedious for other job-seekers. Whether working on an assembly line or in a "white collar" job, the graduate always uses good judgement in "thinking" through the task at hand.

This new graduate is a robot, from the school of robotics.

What careers will these graduate robots pursue? According to researchers at the Robotics Institute at Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh, a new school devoted solely to the study and application of robot technology, the most likely "careers" for robots will be:

* Hazardous-environment work -- where conditions are dangerous or impossible for human beings -- such as alongside for human beings -- such as longside blast furnaces, inside nuclear power and chemical plants, or working in undersea exploration.

* Defense-related tasks -- as mobile scouts on one-way "no return" assignments, in underwater surveillance or demolition assignments; on satellite spy-intercept missions.

* Space work -- making repairs in the hostile environment of space, exploring and economically exploiting other planets.

* "Blue collar" work -- spot welding on auto assembly lines, using perception and judgment in assembling parts, handdling materials, and checking quality control.(Industrial robots are already at work in the United States, notably on new auto assembly lines. But Japan, experiencing a shrinking number of young workers, possesses more than half the world's industrial robots and is considered the world leader in developing industrial robots that build other robots.)

* Medical fields.

To help fund its robot research, now at $3 million annually, Carnegie-Mellon relies on a cooperative arrangement between the Robotics Institute and industry. Joint use of any robotics research is made between the parties involved. All patent rights that might arise from its interdisciplinary approach go to a principal industrial sponsor. The university retains all publishing rights from any research.

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