: : Subsumption Robots and the Application of Intelligent Robots
    to the Service Industry

A new breed of robots whose characteristics, objectives and operational modes drastically differ from more conventional industrial robots is gaining increased interest. Conventional robotics, which have been successful in improving productivity and relieving human workers from tedious routine tasks in manufacturing, now faces a new challenge of automating areas of labour other than those directly linked to production.

These new types of robots aim to achieve a high level of flexibility, adaptability and efficiency in areas of operation which are disliked by humans. These areas are typically called the "3 K (Kitsui, Kitanai, or Kiken) industry" in Japan and are being recognized as a major problem area in obtaining labour, and a social problem as well. In English terms, this means "Drudgery, Dirty, or Dangerous"; therefore, it should be termed the "3 D Industry". The type of jobs referred to here are commonly found in the service industry, and the term Service Robot is now being commonly used in Japan to refer to the robots which do these jobs. Here, the latest intelligent robot technology based on Subsumption Architecture (SA) is introduced along with its actual and potential applications.

SA was invented by Professor R.A. Brooks of the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory of the Massachussetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1986. It proposed a drastically new approach to robot control, and has been a direct challenge to more established conventional process architecture for intelligent robots. From its announcement up until the early 1990s, many of the researchers in conventional robotics either ignored its existence or attacked it viciously. However, the SA theory has been gradually accepted, and in 1991 Professor Brooks received the "Computers and Thought" award, the highest award in AI research. Through his set of theories on intelligence, Brooks has introduced a new approach to AI research. A new movement called "Behavior-based AI" is forming around Brooks led by a group of young researchers who are critical of the conventional approach to AI. The philosophical aspect of his research is also attracting interest among researchers in Japan.

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