By Sumi Das
Posting in Technology
SmartPlanet's Sumi Das looks at how robots may profoundly impact our future, including life-saving robots that roam our oceans and space-bound rovers that will help us rediscover the Moon.
How do we love robots, let me count the ways. Whether they dance, vacuum the house, or fly in perfect formation, we're mesmerized by the anthropomorphic machines. Robots are for most tech journalists, what pandas are for local newscasts. I say this with authority having had my Ron Burgundy moment in 2005, reporting on the public debut of baby giant panda Tai Shan from the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. The tiniest bit of bot news will attract a swarm of journos. If memory serves, my first robot story was in 1999 on Sony's Aibo and it's been fairly non-stop since then. So of course, when an Xconomy Forum called 'The Future of Robotics in Silicon Valley and Beyond' happens in my backyard, I'm there.
If you live in Silicon Valley, you're accustomed to innovation around every corner. But when it comes to robotics, the Valley actually isn't the industry leader. Some experts say it doesn't even place second. Boston and Pittsburgh hold those titles. This event, hosted by SRI International explored how Silicon Valley could up it's robotics game, and highlighted successes made thus far.
Before the day ended, there was one new feather in Silicon Valley's cap. SRI International, Willow Garage and Meka Robotics announced a joint venture, Redwood Robotics. The startup will develop affordable, easy-to-use robotic arms for personal service robots.
Speakers at the event included: Yoky Matsuoka of Nest; Mike Mountz of Kiva Systems, which was just acquired by Amazon for $775 million; and Helen Greiner, who we can thank for the Roomba. My favorite tip from Greiner: if you're out to make a quick buck, don't go into robotics. SmartPlanet had the chance to speak one-on-one with Liquid Robotics' James Gosling (yes, that Gosling -- the father of Java). Find out why Gosling feels the company's technology is life-saving, in my report from the event.
We also met with the creators of Grabit, an SRI spinoff company. SRI's senior mechanical engineer, Harsha Prahlad explained how it's electroadhesion technology will make it easier for robots to pick up objects.
That's one vision of how robots may evolve in the years ahead. How do you think robots will be used in the future?
May 9, 2012
robots for the household are of course already here, with the Roomba. Next up, I would expect that a spinoff of the Google Car. That would help all of the older drivers (a growing group). Once that appears as an option, the Insurances companies will make drivers pay extra for 'manual' driving. It will all be in the actuarial reports. The full service Maid or Gardener will follow. It's probably at least 10 years away. Repairbot for these 'appliances' will then follow that. It'll be a great boon for working people, but you are in trouble if your job is menial rote work. That is the easiest to replace with a machine. Aircraft, of course are easy. the current top of the line Autopilots are already quite capable of take off and landing, and Airlines already fly between most destinations entirely on Autopilot. The Pilots are really only there to reassure the Passengers. Once people are used to the Car just taking you somewhere, Aircraft will quickly follow. What this means for us as people, is that more education is vital. Machines will do more and more. People will do what the machines can't. How we do that will also be changing.