Part III: Will there ever be a killer app for robotics?

The city's central computer told you? R2D2, you know better than to trust a strange computer! -C3P0 (Star Wars) Over the course of this series, I’ve tried to focus on the fringes of robotic technology. Military robots that disarms bombs and industrial robots that help on the auto assembly line have been around for several years and while they have helped save lives and increase productivity, they haven’t filtered down to an application that is consumer driven for growth like the personal computer. Is the ultimate consumer robot Rosie from the Jetsons? I guess we’ll have to wait for these to make it into our homes. Most engineers couldn’t figure out why the typical person would want a computer other than to organize their recipes, but for a busy family, coming home to a prepared dinner with the house clean would certainly be a god send, allowing them to spend time together. Most people would probably not have described a microwave, when asked about appliances that they would find useful. Henry Ford probably describes this best when he states that if he has asked customers what they had wanted back in the early 1900’s, “Faster Horses”, the automobile might never have come to be. Another possibility is that there will never be a killer app for robotics. Perhaps the technology will slowly creep into society so that it becomes ubiquitous much like the internet. As I have previously mentioned, the heart of any robot is a computer. Few people notice the computer handling the traffic lights on their drive to work each day or the heating and cooling systems in (smart) office buildings. They generally fade into the background as an automated process. Rosie won’t be running around the house, the dryer will be folding the clothes. The refrigerator will work with the oven to cook a meal. Is it less about humans working with machines, rather machines working with machines.

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