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Hope on the horizon: Robots

MIT faculty and researchers offer their thoughts on potentially life-altering
technologies that lie just around the corner.

Rodney Brooks

Panasonic Professor of Robotics

As the baby boomers age, the demographics of Europe, North America, East Asia and Australia will demand that the productivity of all aspects of manual work increase dramatically. Fortunately, robots are just now maturing to the point where they can help with real productivity at practical prices. From virtually no mobile robots deployed anywhere in the world six years ago we now have thousands on active duty in the U.S. military and millions cleaning the floors of American homes. This is the lead-up to a classic hockey-stick growth curve. Just as computers we interact with personally (e.g., desktops, laptops, PDAs, cellphones) transformed our lives over the last 25 years, so, too, will robots transform our lives over the coming 25. And it just so happens that Massachusetts is the epicenter of this nascent industry.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on May 21, 2008 (download PDF).

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