The Robots Are Coming

The Artificial Intelligence Revolution

Driven by curiosity, scientists from a broad spectrum of disciplines continue to break new ground in the field of artificial intelligence. According to a study conducted by Stanford University, the future will see cars that drive themselves and robot housemaids becoming commonplace objects of our daily lives. Our timeline shows how human and artificial intelligence are gradually converging. It also makes clear that humans have character traits for which there are no artificial alternatives: curiosity, the courage to innovate, and inquisitiveness set them far apart from even the smartest computers. 


Just How Smart Are Machines?

Can a machine compete with the intellectual capacities of a human being? British mathematician Alan Turing conducted a test to find this out. In the so-called “Turing Test”, an analyst chatted with a computer and with a real person. If the analyst were unable to determine which answers came from the machine, and which from its human counterpart, the computer would pass the test and be considered intelligent.


The Birth of the Concept of "Artificial Intelligence"

In the summer of 1956, John McCarthy, the American logician, computer scientist, cognitive scientist and author, organized a six-week conference on the subject of artificial intelligence at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire. Since then, the so-called Dartmouth Conference has been seen as the starting point for all later research into artificial intelligence. Three years later, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), McCarthy and the American research scientist Marvin Minsky co-founded what today still stands as the leading institution in this field – the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL).


Dialog Between Man and Machine

The German-American computer scientist Joseph Weizenbaum developed “ELIZA”, one of the first natural language processing computer programs. It analyzed the user’s input for keywords and provided answers to match the ones it found.


Mobile Robots

Shakey, the first robot capable of autonomously navigating a room with the aid of a camera and sensors and responding to commands, was developed at the Artificial Intelligence Center of Stanford Research Institute. It was able to avoid obstacles and push objects around.


Chess Computer Beats Grand Master

A computer by the name of “Deep Blue” became the first electronic chess player to beat a human World Chess Champion. Garry Kasparov, reigning World Champion at the time, lost 4:2 to the program designed by the American computer manufacturer IBM.


The Robot Soccer World Cup

Thousands of scientists and students from every corner of the globe met in Japan to match their electronic soccer teams against each other. 


Domestic Robots

The American concern iRobot launches “Roomba”, the first robotic vacuum cleaner at an affordable price for private households (200 USD). It vacuums all the floors at a preset time and autonomously returns to its charging station.


AI Researcher Predicts "Singularity" by 2045

Raymond Kurzweil, futurist, research scientist and director of engineering at Google, forecasts that “singularity” will be achieved by the year 2045. If things go the way he predicts, 2045 is the year in which the computing power of computers will draw level with that of the human brain.


The First Autonomous, Self-Driving Automobile

“Stanley”, a modified VW Touareg entered by Stanford University, won the Grand Challenge of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Academy (DARPA). Stanley became the first completely autonomous land vehicle to master an obstacle course in the desert southwest of Las Vegas. The vehicle completed the 142-mile course in just under seven hours.


Knowledge Contest: Machine Wins Against Human Challengers

The IBM computer by the name of “Watson” wins the gameshow “Jeopardy” against human world champions. It was able to analyze the host’s questions faster and more precisely than its human challengers.


The Cellphone That Talks

Apple presents “Siri” as a new feature of the iPhone 4s operating system. The speech recognition software is intended to act as a personal assistant and help iPhone users to make calendar entries, search for information on the Web or book flights.


The First Computer Passes the Turing Test

The Russian chat-program Eugene Goostman, which simulates a 13-year old boy, is the first to pass the Turing Test. 


AI Invents Its Own Secret Language

The research unit Google Brain develops two computers that autonomously encrypt their inter-machine communication. Their developers, Martin Abadi and David G. Andersen from Google Brain call them Alice and Bob. With the aid of encrypted language, Alice can send Bob a “secret message” that Bob can decode but cannot be wiretapped by other networks. The encryption code for this was devised autonomously by the two computers.

Robotic hands with strings wrapped around each finger Robotic hands with strings wrapped around each finger


According to the Stanford University Study, “Artificial Intelligence and Life in 2030”, This Is What the Future Will bring

Autonomous Transportation

In a typical North American city, self-driving cars, trucks, and planes of the future will transport people and goods. City-dwellers will increasingly share cars, rather than owning them. According to the study, this will also strongly influence urban planning.

Robot Housemaids

According to the researchers at Stanford University, interaction with robots will become more practical and affordable as learning and voice-communication capabilities become more advanced. Smart machines will then begin to play a significant role in households and service scenarios: robots will deliver parcels, clean offices, and take on roles in security services.

Dr. Robot

The Stanford University future scenario also foresees electronic devices and apps that monitor our health. Robots will increasingly replace human staff in the operating theater and patient care – and will simultaneously improve not only the quality of healthcare, but also extend our life-expectancy.

Autonomous Teaching Machines

Even though robots have not yet progressed so far as to replace human teachers, they are increasingly employed more frequently in specialized education – particularly in the sciences, mathematics, or languages. What’s more, online learning programs are more popular than ever before and enable teachers to teach more students per class.

Work-Sharing With Robot Colleagues

According to researchers at Stanford University, AI will replace humans in many kinds of jobs – for instance, taxi or truck drivers. Nevertheless, rather than fulfilling entire job profiles, robots will tend to take on more specific tasks. This applies by no means only to unskilled jobs. According to the Harvard Business Review, AI will also redefine management as we know it today: Robots are now colleagues, and the division of tasks is clearly defined. While machines increasingly handle administrative, coordinative, and controlling tasks, human employees are given room to concentrate on their unique, inventive skills, such as experimentation, improvisation and innovation. They make decisions and develop strategies. After all, it is factors like these that continue to set human beings apart from their electronic counterparts: They possess social competency and creativity – they can combine ideas in new ways and get one innovation after another on the road to success. In other words: they are led and inspired by curiosity. 

Buchanan, Bruce G.: A (Very) Brief History of Artificial Intelligence, in: AI Magazine Volume 26 Number 4, 2006, pp. 53-60

Duval, B. – Van der Herik, D. – Loiseau, S.: Agents and Artificial Intelligence: 6th International Conference, ICAART 2014, Angers, France, March 6-8, 2014, Revised Selected Papers, Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Keith, Frankish and Ramsey, William M.: The Cambridge Handbook of Artificial Intelligence, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2014, here: p. 273ff

Kitano, Hiroaki and Tadokoro, Satoshi: RoboCup Rescue. A Grand Challenge for Multiagent and Intelligent Systems, in: AI Magazine Volume 22, Number 1,2001, pp. 39-52

Kolbjornsrud, V. – Amico, R. – Thomas, R.J.: Leadership Development. How Artificial Intelligence Will Redefine Management, 2016, retrievable from:

Kurzweil, Ray: The Singularity is near: when humans transcend biology. New York: Penguin Group 2005

Nehmzow, Ulrich: Mobile Robotics. A Practical Introduction. Published by Springer, London: 2003, here: pp. 7-24

Weizenbaum, J.: ELIZA – A Computer Program for the Study of Natural Language Communication between Man and Machine. Communications of the Association for Computing Machinery 9, 1966, pp. 36-45 

Stanford study: “Artificial Intelligence and Life in 2030”. One hundred year study of Artificial Intelligence. Report of the 2015 Study Panel, Stanford University 2016

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