SHAKEY was one of the first AI-based robots and its fame was recognized when it was featured in Life and National Geographic. It has now been honored with an IEEE Milestone award. It is amazing how far we come in such a short time.
SHAKEY was built and explored at SRI's Artificial Intelligence Center research from 1966 to 1972. It could perform tasks that required planning, route-finding, and the rearranging of simple objects. It was a wheeled robot but that didn't make it particularly stable and its name derives from the way it moved.
It is difficult to appreciate how short of processing power we were back in 1966. The original computer used to control SHAKEY was a SDS-940 with 64K 24-bit words of memory which was programmed in FORTRAN and Lisp. Later this was upgraded to a PDP-10 with 192K 36-bit words of memory.
Even the sensors used were primitive and expensive in comparison to today. The TV camera for example used big and expensive analog photo sensors rather than digital.
From the point of view of software, SHAKEY inspired Duda and Hart to make a practical version of the Hough transform, a basic line detection algorithm. It also provided a test bed for the STRIPS planning system and the A* algorithm was invented to get the robot from A to B.
You can see SHAKEY in action in this 1969 video:
SRI has made a new video celebrating SHAKEY's milestone honour:
As nice as the IEEE Milestone award is, personally I think the fact that the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence's AI Video Competition's awards are named "Shakeys" is as important.
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