BB-8, Bluetooth and big questions about the future

“Is that the Star Wars doll?” the cashier asked. “It’s a toy.” “No, it’s a robot!” were the responses of my colleague and me. There’s nothing wrong with either dolls or toys, of course – but BB-8 is most assuredly a robot.

Toy robot

BB-8 is the newest “droid,” a responsive and intelligent robot featured in the Star Wars film franchise. It is small, duo-spherical, and has capabilities that are astounding for a unit available on the consumer market.

The Ericsson invention of Bluetooth is a major enabler of BB-8’s functions. The user controls BB-8’s movements via a Bluetooth-connected mobile application. With a touch of the finger, the user determines where it rolls, the holographic messages it sends, and more. BB-8 can even be controlled via voice commands to the app.

George Lucas could only dream of this when he created Star Wars back in the 1970s. But technology has developed so rapidly since that time – particularly mobile technology – that researchers from companies like Ericsson have been able to take those dreams and turn them into reality.

The advent of BB-8 and its ease of use beg the questions: will we control these types of artificial intelligence in the future? And if so, will we control them via smartphone or some other technology?

Maybe yes, maybe no. According to research from Ericsson ConsumerLab’s 10 Hot Consumer Trends of 2016, one in two smartphone users believes smartphones will go extinct within the next five years. The same proportion thinks we’ll be able to command household appliances via voice.

So will everyone soon have a BB-8 rolling around their floors, “patrolling the perimeter,” communicating on their behalf to the world around them? (If it doesn’t sell out first!)

In all seriousness, I wonder about the impact of society from the onslaught of artificial intelligence already in development. As our ConsumerLab says, change will never be as slow as it is today – and the pace of development in technology and beyond is pretty fast already.

Perhaps by the time the next Star Wars film comes out, we’ll know for sure. Just a few more years to wait…

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