Saturday, February 21, 2009

Recession Makes Next-Generation Robotics Even More Important

I’ve recently read speculation that the depth of this recession and job losses will cause service robotics to lose a bit of steam. I don’t agree at all. I think it’s quite the opposite.

As Andy Grove used to point out, there are “strategic inflection points” where the old way of doing things starts to break down, and it’s important to not panic, and look for that path to convert the immediate crisis into that next big opportunity. Clearly the world economy is at a crisis point. We can either panic and collapse, or we can re-focus and aim ourselves at the next big opportunity as a society.

Service robotics is one of the key technologies that leads us to that next big opportunity. Some of the reasons I and others have mentioned many times:

>>Much of the crisis in the US, Europe, and Japan is intensified by the degradation of our manufacturing base, the aging of our population, and the increasing disparity between the highly technological and empowered training our citizens recieve and the mindless menial labor that is required in vast quantities in our economy. Robotics is the key to resolving these social problems.

>>With a recession like this, a lot of wealth has disappeared, and it’s more important than ever to look for cost cutting tools. Robotics is a cost-cutting tool with amazing untapped potential.

>>Robotics and other automation create jobs, because they help industries survive. Without robots, Detroit would have died even sooner.

President Obama has said we should “Innovate our way out of this”.

That’s exactly right. One of the reasons we pulled ourselves out of previous recessions in the 70s and 80s was that we had big technological revolutions that helped boost us out. I think the same thing could happen now, making the current recession much shorter. Yes, it’s a bad recession but we can pull out faster. So here are 4 key points:

1. Service robotics will be one of the key technologies that “leads the way” out of the current recession... an essential productivity tool and new technology infrastructure for the next 25 years

2. Service robotics will certainly be a crucial core technology for first-world nations like Japan, Europe, and the US if they have any intention of maintaining their leadership roles in 5-10 years when big demographic changes hit

3. It’s a known fact that robotics is the cornerstone of future national defense plans in an asymmetric world

4. So no matter how you slice it -- for very real reasons of national defense, the current recession, and our future as a technological leader -- robotics is and must be a top national priority for the US and other first-world nations

In modern society, the commercial sector serves as the great engine of innovation for all of society. That means we (especially in America) must push harder for robotics commercialization.
There are people lined up to start building new robot companies and make a profit. Help them succeed and we all succeed.

Robot-Cub -- Open Source Humanoid Robot

Here is a humanoid (walking, generally human-shaped) robot developed in Europe.

The team has posted their designs as an open-source project. The cost to build one is reportedly about 200,000 pounds (UK) which would translate into, let's say, a half-million dollars US.
Nice product for researchers, but at the high cost such humanoids invariably carry, probably not a lot of practical applications.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Want and Easy One-Stop Place to Keep Up With Robotics?

I recently saw a blog post that named The Robot Report as the best robot related resource on the web. I second that. Since the poster said it so much better than I could, I'll just be lazy and re-print the post here:

Before I founded RoboDynamics I spent a great deal of time researching the robotics field. Part of that research was of course scouring the web looking for companies, researchers, and other general information. If you've ever done this type of research, then you know that it is a tedious and time-consuming task. However, I just learned a great web resource that has arguably the largest number of (valid) links, broken down into general categories -

Here's a list of what I like about this website:
Unlike other similar lists, all links are valid and placed in the proper category.
News items that are generally in-depth and relevant.
Someone (or some team) that is committed to keeping the content relevant and fresh.