Your next gadget purchase could be a personal robot

Engineers and economists are now predicting that robotics is about to make the leap from the factory floor to your family room.

Companies including Sony and General Electric are working on designs for small robotic devices for consumers. Products like the Roomba, a robot that automatically vacuums floors, are flying off the shelves. And the cover of a recent issue of Scientific American featured no less a technological luminary than Bill Gates boldly predicting the “Dawn of the Age of Robots.”

What’s behind this new era? It’s partly a matter of technology. Devices have been developed that can recognize and respond to a human voice or map the boundaries of a room to avoid collisions. There are now a dozen different ways for robots to get around, from walking to crawling to riding on unicycle-like wheels. All of these components are being miniaturized and are becoming increasingly energy efficient.

Tired-journalism alert:  Author makes hackneyed reference to Rosie the Robot from Jetson’s fame.  See Rosie the Robot and hack journalism.

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