killer app with robots is taking over greater consumer issues — Chris Hofmeister, Brooks Automation

Fred O'Connor


Fred O’Connor 

Robots will become part of daily life

Fred O’Connor / PC World
Wednesday, October 17, 2007; 7:19 PM

“Once relegated to science-fiction movies and automobile assembly lines, robots are expected to handle more complex tasks in health care and agriculture, among other areas.

* * *

“’People underestimate the long-term effects of robotics on society,’ said Rod Brooks, cofounder and CTO (chief technology officer) of robotics company iRobot and director of the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence laboratory. ‘”Robots are getting closer to people. We need to see how robots and people interact.’

* * *

“However, a multitude of issues require remedies before robots play a more ubiquitous role.

“Sensors that provide “the ability to really understand your environment” and “can provide instant feedback at an affordable cost” are needed said Tom Ryden, CEO of North End Technologies, which is in stealth mode.

*  *  * 

“User interfaces, which sometimes prove too complex for people, also need refinement.

“‘Here’s a little thing for you engineers out there. Engineers make the suckiest interfaces ever,‘ Brooks said. [emphasis by Newcomb]

“Soldiers had difficulty learning the controls of the PackBot, an iRobot product made for the military, prompting one company engineer to recommend that better- trained people handle the devices. iRobot, however, used a different tactic./’Now we ship [PackBots] with a game controller and have instant usage,’ Brooks said.

“‘It is also the case that better sensors capable of recognizing objects aren’t useful if the intelligence to interpret this data isn’t available,’ said Chris Hofmeister, CTO of Brooks Automation, which makes robots for handling automated tasks in the manufacturing industry.  And power concerns for long-term field use need to be addressed, according to Deb Theobald, CEO of Vecna Technologies, whose BEAR robot is designed to remove humans from harmful situations.

* * *

“‘Consumer-driven growth is a great driver for robots,’ Hofmeister said. ‘In long-term evolution, the killer app with robots is taking over greater consumer issues.'”

(full article)

Primary Source:   Fred O’Connor / PC World

Secondary Source: Washington Post


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