Emerging Platforms

The Robots Are Coming! The Robots Are Coming!

Posted by Nicola Smith on September 19th, 2012 at 6:51 am

For several decades, the symbol of the future has been the robot. Throughout history there have been numerous references to animatronic, mechanical beings created to perform specialized tasks. One of the earliest mentions of a robot-like, artificial people appeared in Greek mythology with the god of metalwork, Vulcan, who created mechanical servants and handmaidens. Since then, literature and entertainment have given us example after example of what the future holds. There was, of course, the Jetsons’ robot maid, Rosie, the Mechanical Hound from Fahrenheit 451, and Gigantor from the black and white vaults. Robotics, however, are very real. The future is now.

The world’s robot population is staggering. The service robotics market alone is valued at $20.73 billion and expected to reach $46.18 billion by 2017. iRobot, the maker of the Roomba robotic vacuum, alone reports a 50% year-over-year increase in Home Robot revenue. It’s here-and-now evidence that we’re closer than ever to bringing our imaginative ideas around these machines to life.

Many of you reading this may already have a Roomba, or its floor washing sister, Scooba. Both were designed for a singular purpose, just as my historical and mythological examples were. Yet these modern robots have one key differentiator; aside from being real, they have an Open API (application programming interface). In fact, iRobot created a version of the Roomba, less the vacuum, specifically for the intention of sharing its possibilities through Open API development.

So what exactly does this mean for the non-techie folks out there? It means we’re entering an era in which the common man can buy and build both the hardware and the software necessary to advance robotics to the next level.

Access to these APIs gives developers and inventors the world over the chance to build applications on top of these various robotic machines and platforms. It means that we, the public, are helping to decide the direction of robotics exploration to come. If you want a robot that feeds the dog and takes out the trash, it might not be too far in the future that this dream becomes a reality.

And as more and more people purchase robots for their homes and workplaces, there will be opportunities for relevant brand and product integration that provide utility and convenience to users.

For example, a brand like Food Network might build an app on top of an in-home food preparation robot that could help you plan and cook meals based on recipes within their catalog and the ingredients available in your fridge. The Home Depot could build an application for construction-focused service robots that assists in taking measurements, provides product recommendations and walks the customer through the building process step by step.

Of course, I couldn’t write about robots without referencing the long prophesized SkyNet-controlled robot apocalypse. While I can’t rule this scenario out completely, most experts agree that the development of artificially intelligent robots with an affinity for the destruction of the human race is highly unlikely. If I were you, I would be much more concerned with the zombie apocalypse and learning how to defend myself from all those pesky vampires and werewolves.

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