DTU Times interviewed Diwakar Vaish, Head of Robotics and Research at A-SET Training and Research Institutes, who was in DTU for the Humanoid Robot Show organised by IEEE-DTU under Invictus 2019.
How did you get attracted to the field of robotics?
Everyone is interested in robotics. As a child, back in the 1990s, I had developed a genuine interest in robots. Everyone had an interest, so did I. The only difference between me and everyone else was that I was trying to curate and to find a way to turn this interest into reality! I remember, back when I was in the fifth standard, I started doing courses in Electronics, and trying to understand how things are actually made. This really got my attention and I realised that I was loving this!
I started going to multiple inter-school competitions and understood how the world thinks of robots; how others such as my friends and teachers thought of it. After that, the internet came in when I was in the seventh or eighth standard. I started googling things, collecting and gathering my resources for which I needed money. I used to ask my mother for financial help and she would give it willingly, after seeing my interest and achievements in this field. They always thought that it would be good for me. So, when I programmed my first robot, it was a huge success for my parents and I. It was an amazing journey from programming my first robot to where I am right now. Nine years have passed since then.
Just like you said, ‘Everyone is interested in robotics’, but not everyone makes it their field of research or study or chooses a profession in that field. What are your views on this?
Not everyone has the same perspective as me towards robotics. They may have that perspective towards something else. It might also be even closely related to technology, i.e., it may be about cooking or photography. Everyone has different interests. One should definitely go and explore their interest. The major problem is that they are scared! Sometimes, the people and the circumstances around us tend to strangle us into a sphere. We are conditioned to believe that there are very few specific paths to success which we are pushed to take.
Here in India, with a population of 1.30 billion, we do have many problems. We also have many people who suffer and are ready to pay to get their problems solved. We are not able to think beyond that.
You can take risks. Go ahead and don’t be scared. If you fail, there is no problem in joining an MNC at 29. So, I would like to say that you must go ahead to take risks in your life and explore your interests. What other time would be best for you to explore your interest? It's your college life! After you turn 30, you won't be able to explore your interests the way you can now. The number of risks involved will be more then!
What do you think is the future of humanoid robots?
Humanoid robots are amazing and highly efficient. The way they do and learn things is amazing. We have seen them do backflips and cartwheels. They are able to fight a fire and they can use water and make a sprinkler fountain out of it, they can climb small hills or mountains. We have seen different kinds of humanoid robots excel in various fields. The truth is that more people are required to research on them.
Making more robots will certainly accelerate the research. The power source also creates another problem. As soon as we have proper and efficient power sources, which can store large amounts of memory with lighter equipment, it would bring them closer to the world of humanoids. Inevitably, it has to happen.
The robots are designed on the basis of the AI and ML fields. This gives them thinking abilities which might someday match that of a human. In the case of the Sophia robot, it had spoken of some controversial statements and so was shut down. What are your views on this?
For this, we need to think of robots as a different species and not as an ordinary machine. To think of it, we are at some level similar to robots but we have developed thinking abilities and creativity which sets us apart from them. So, robots as a species can be good or bad depending on the way the user programs it.
Machine learning algorithms and artificial Intelligence concepts are at a very nascent stage and are being heavily researched upon. It will take a lot of time to broaden the AI and ML concepts so as to allow that to happen.
The learning curve of AI and ML starts with the learning of an ant and then to that of a rat and then a dog and so on. It also takes a lot of time to grow from one level of intelligence to another. We have developed to the stage of acquiring the intelligence of a chimpanzee, but we have a lot more to go. As soon as we reach the stage of acquiring and incorporating human-level intelligence into a robot, it will change the world.
How do you think learning AI and ML during college life is helpful for any field in robotics?
Not everyone needs to learn AI and ML. If you are learning AI and ML you need to try and incorporate these elements into your life. If you don’t apply them after learning, then it is just a waste of time and there is no use to it.