I, myself, am working on a robot right now for my Senior Design project. The ultimate goal of this project is to compete in the NASA Lunabotics competition. Hopefully, we will be able to have a robot that can mine lunar soil without any human intervention, and then we win!
Robots can be used to do a lot of different things, but it is the programming that runs the robots that allow them to do as they do. A certain branch of computer science, expert systems, is used when a program is needed to make decisions about a problem using reasoning, rather than to follow a procedure
In a report published in Science Magazine, researchers reported the creation of a program that has successfully located previously undiscovered mineral deposits using artificial intelligence. The researchers were able to build upon the known geology of an area in Washington State, taking a large amount of data and using a program to predict where mineral deposits existed. They were able to not only verify the existence of known deposits of porphyry molybdenum, a mineral that contains the element molybdenum, which is used to make alloys of steel, among other things. As a whole, this research represents an advancement in expert systems and the mining industry and depends on years of work by expert mining engineers and geologists.
However, I feel that there other implications of this type of research, besides the ability to find overlooked mineral deposits. Does this research mean that prospecting itself could eventually be automated? And furthermore, does this mean that given enough data generated by experts in a field, the field itself could be computerized, rendering the experts obsolete? Or will these experts be needed more in the future to provide data for the computers?