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ROBO Global finds the AI technologies giving HBO's 'Westworld' so much whizbang are not all fiction

The self-driving motorbikes and cars in Westworld are so near reality that the ROBO Global Index Series includes companies developing the technology

A scene from the popular science fiction TV series 'Westworld' showing a human robot

A big part of the HBO TV series "Westworld’s" appeal is its focus on artificial intelligence, which becomes ‘a character in itself,’ says a report by ROBO Global that drills down into how much of the dazzling technology in the science fiction TV series is pure-fiction and how much is based on real-world technologies.

Interestingly, ROBO Global created the ROBO Global Robotics & Automation Index, the world’s first benchmark index to track companies that focus on robotics, automation and artificial intelligence so it can spot marketable futuristic technology.

READ: ROBO Global captures the high-octane growth of robotics and artificial intelligence

The report takes a quick glimpse at the new "Westworld" Season 3 trailer and breaks down where sci-fi meets reality in the realm of robotics and AI.

0:16 Self-driving motorcycles

The report says the self-driving motorcycle seen just seconds into the trailer is similar to BMW AG’s (OTCMKTS:BMWYY) latest prototype. BMW Motorrad (the company’s two-wheeler division) introduced a real-life self-driving motorcycle in September of last year. “While it’s not a fully autonomous bike like the Westworld version, the onboard technology is being designed to provide better stability, especially in dangerous riding conditions,” said the report.

Yamaha is also working on a self-driving motorcycle, but using an entirely different approach. The company’s Motobot is a humanoid robot that operates as a driver.

Both prototypes are enabled by sensors and cameras that are available today to support advanced machine vision applications, as well as by complex computing systems that help enhance human performance behind the wheel.

0:20 Humanoid robots

Pop culture has been fixated on the concept of humanoid robots for decades. In movies and TV shows, these robots mimic humans and as they do in "Westworld" and wreak havoc.

“In the real world, humanoid robots are designed to help humans, not harm us. There are now robots that aid with autism, including NAO and Robokind, which help teach socialization and emotional reactions to people with autism,” noted the report.

Atlas, the humanoid robot, from Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOGL)-owned Boston Dynamics, is able to coordinate its arms, torso, and legs to take on jobs that are dangerous for humans. Similarly, Buddy, an emotional support robot from Blue Frog Robotics, is designed to foster empathy and the desire to interact. “Expect a wave of new, more human-like robots as the underlying technologies continue to advance,” said the report.

0:50 Flying taxis

Again, this is an area where fact and fiction are almost touching. “In the past few years, a number of major tech companies have begun testing autonomous taxi flights,” notes the report.

At the head of the pack, Uber Technologies Inc (NYSE:UBER) hopes to launch its flying taxi service in Dallas and Los Angeles as early as 2023. Germany-based Lilium and Airbus’ Project Vahana both have electric versions in the works that promise to make transportation ‘greener’ by decreasing traffic and fossil fuels.

Boeing Co (NYSE:BA) completed its first autonomous air taxi flight earlier this year. “The prototype is designed to travel at distances up to 50 miles at a time and measures in at 30 feet long and 28 feet wide,” said the report.

1:03 Autonomous cars

The writers of "Westworld" didn’t have to look far to come up with the concept for an autonomous car. “Tesla Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA), BMW, Mercedes, Audi AG (OTCMKTS:AUDVF), Volvo (OTCMKTS:VLVLY), and other carmakers have released vehicle models with semi-autonomous capabilities, and the technology is improving rapidly,” said the report.

How close are we to the holy grail of a "Level 5" fully autonomous vehicle?

“Expect to see these vehicles on the road in less than a decade. In fact, according to Henrik Christensen, head of UC San Diego’s Contextual Robotics Institute and a ROBO Global Strategic Advisor, children born today may never have to learn to drive a car,” said the report.

This technology is so near to reality that the ROBO Global Index Series now includes numerous companies that are developing and delivering the technologies that enable autonomous vehicles, including QUALCOMM Inc (NASDAQ:QCOM), NVIDIA Corporation (NASDAQ:NVDA), Cognex Corporation (NASDAQ:CGNX), and Xilinx Inc (NASDAQ:XLNX).

“The most exciting thing about this alignment between fantasy and reality is the opportunity for investors in the real world,” said the report. “The technologies that are behind these innovations are very real, and they are already shifting how we see and experience the world around us.”

Investors can buy directly into the popular ROBO ETF based on the benchmark index comprised of around 87 top robotics, automation and AI companies.

The ROBO Global Robotics & Automation Index ETF (NYSEARCA:ROBO) traded 0.5% higher to $37.85 in afternoon trade in New York.

Contact Uttara Choudhury at [email protected]

Follow her on Twitter@UttaraProactive 

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