April 24, 2013
Hoping For Robots In The Near Future
I have written about how much I adore the television show Futurama. The character that makes me love the show most is Bender, the not-so-friendly, but actually friendly, robot. Not only do I find Bender amusing, but I also must admit that the inner nerd in me fantasizes about having a robot as my best friend. Heck, I wonder what it would be like to simply interact with a robot like Bender.
Recently, on CNN’s Opinions, Keller Rinaudo, CEO and co-founder of Romotive, a company that has created Romo the robot (a pretty cute and cool little robot, if I do say so myself), wrote about the accessibility and availability of robots in the near future. He is of the opinion that within the next decade, robots will play a bigger role in our lives. He supports this opinion with five reasons:
- Barriers to entry in robotics are falling away because of the rise in cheap rapid-prototyping tools like 3-D printers.
- Open-source electronics platforms (e.g. Arduino) allow hobbyists to create custom electronic systems.
- Crowdfunding websites make it possible for companies to test the traction of new robots as well as secure initial sales pre-scale production.
- Smart devices have changed the way people think about robotic controllers and robots themselves because so many people have them and understand the interface.
- The ubiquity of Wi-Fi and data networks will allow robots to be designed specifically with the Web in mind because innovators can utilize the clouds.
These five reasons lead Rinaudo and Romotive to the conclusion that robots are nearer in our future than we realized. True, he does see some work especially in making technology more usable. Both design innovation and tech innovation will lead to making robots more available to the majority of people in the world.
Rinaudo acknowledged Roy Amara, president of the Institute for the Future, in his discussion with some interesting information: “[Amara] said that people tend to overestimate the effect of a new technology in the short run and underestimate the effect over the long term. That’s absolutely the case in robotics, where it’s easy to dismiss early attempts as toys but hard to imagine how robots will fundamentally change our lives over the next few decades.” How true this is. Countless examples show that people initially see robotics more as fun than as progress until robotics become a part of our lives completely (I’m thinking about smart phones, here).
Rinaudo continued with some examples of the possibilities in robots. “Robots will be able to guard your house while you’re away, babysit your kids, or keep you company when you’re alone. Drones could tend to gardens and farms while people control telepresence robots on the other side of the world via heads-up displays like Google Glass.”
All of these possibilities really excite me. For instance, I love to have a garden, love to have veggies and flowers growing, and love to support growing local and whatnot, but I hate gardening. I completely dislike picking weeds and planting and the whole shebang. If I could have a robot help me with that, I would be a much better gardener. As it is now, my garden has to deal with my attitude as I pluck weed after weed. I still plant a garden, but I tend to it begrudgingly.
The best thing about robots is thinking about the potential. Maybe, just maybe, someday I will have my very own Bender…now that’s worth hoping for.
Image Credit: Romotive