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02 February 2012

Robo what? MMDA's out to build a robotic MMDA officer

Words by Leslie Sy
 
robommda
Last January 31, 2012, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Chairman Francis N. Tolentino asked the help of five award-winning Filipino inventors to develop “robots” that can be used to help the MMDA police traffic violators the metro. The advantages of a robotic MMDA officer are quite obvious. Above being bribe-proof, it will also tirelessly do its duty all day long. But will the idea of having a “RoboMMDA” really work in the real world?
 
Digesting this news, visions from the movie RoboCop comes to mind, but it's not the part-man part-machine hero. Instead, it’s his adversary - the flawed artificial intelligent robot called ED-209 that pops into my head as MMDA head Tolentino's inspiration. It's either a brilliant idea or he's just too engrossed in a RoboCop rerun marathon.
 
MMDA's robot traffic enforcer of the future is designed to “detect motorists who jump traffic lights and commit other infractions” whist stationed at road intersections. 
 
While it's relatively easy for a computer to detect traffic violations, how do they intend to apprehend and ticket the violator? Would RoboMMDA use the age-old style of flagging down the motorist and hope the driver stops? Or would it be armed with “enforcement tools” such as machine guns that it will use after calling out an audible warning that says, “Halt! You are ordered to immediately stop. You have 20 seconds to comply!”?  
 
Mimicking human mobility and self-navigation are already considered cutting edge stuff today, so we're still a long way from programming one to do the duties of a real-life “RoboCop”. But we're in good hands as the group recruited for this project is none other than the high school team from Dr. Yanga's Colleges, Inc. (DYCI) in Bocaue, Bulacan who just won 4th place in the annual World Robot Olympiad (WRO) in Abu Dhabi. Their robot invention named MAGIS detects floods, body temperature, and blood pressure. And now, they're working on another robot that can detect “botcha” or double dead-meat in public markets. 
 
Honestly, I would love to see RoboMMDA go up against pesky buses, jeepneys, and trikes. In fact, as absurd as the idea might sound, it might actually be the traffic solution we've been looking for!