Sizing up the coming robotics revolution

CNET News has an interesting Q & A with Rodney Brooks of MIT and iRobot.  He was one of the prinicipal creators of the Roomba.  Here are a few of my favorite questions and answers:

Are robots going to be a big-ticket item like the family car where you invest in one that suits your needs, it comes with a warranty, and when it breaks you take it to a mechanic?
Brooks: First off, our cars are going to get more robotic, and we are starting to see that already: The high-end Lexus self-parking, automatic lane changing, staying at a fixed distance from another car. That’s going to continue, because these are safety issues, and the Japanese car manufacturers in particular and the Germans want safety.

But do you really think that the autonomous car is commercially viable? Will people be willing, at 60 miles per hour, to give up control and trust a robot?
Brooks: I think that willingness to give up control is going to be slow. The car companies aren’t saying, ‘let’s build an autonomous car right now.’ They’re saying, ‘let’s build aids.’ I think gradually over time people would become more accustomed to this and we’ll see gradual shifts.

You’ve said that “the coming robotics revolution will change the fundamental nature of society.” Generally, in what ways will it change?
Brooks: I think communication technology has changed expectations of how connected we are. I’ve got four kids ranging in age from 19 to 23, and even in that span of time I can see a change in the forms of communication. The 19-year-old doesn’t do e-mails but uses (a social-networking site) and SMS. The 23-year-old uses much more e-mail, a cell phone, but never SMS.

I think we will see, in that same sort of sense, people changing their expectations of the world from robotics. After one time spending six weeks in Japan, I came back here and almost walked through the first glass door I came to, because I’d just gotten so used to them opening.

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One Response to “Sizing up the coming robotics revolution”

  1. elizabethm Says:

    I think its great that cars will have “built-in” safety features, such as

    staying a fixed distance from the car ahead. As we all know, planes

    have the same factors. Some of the big ones can “almost” fly themselves.

    And, as usual, the Japanese are in the forefront. Good for them.

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