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Ivan Kirigin's views on Robotics & Culture: future. perfect. progress.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Marines Aided by Robotic Airplane in Iraq

With iRobot's PackBot-EOD, the Predator, the Global Hawk, the Army's Future Combat Systems, and now the ScanEagle, robots are clearly becoming quite important in the military, and very quickly. The speed of adoption is either a signal of the changing culture at the Pentagon, or evidence of how useful these bots are. It's probably a bit of both.

A large decrease in the number of casualties will result in routine tasks (which are the easiest to attack) becoming automated, like autonomous offroad vehicles on supply missions. After the next Grand Challenge, I expect a rate of adoption that will completely eclipse that of robots today. I'm rooting for RedTeam.

Still, the hardest job with many casualties is urban warfare, which pretty much requires a robot that can operate in a restricted setting which humans find quite simple, but is a far harder task than off road driving. Note that even a tele-operated full solution would be very, very hard. It will be a while before we see something like this.

Sunday, November 28, 2004


The New York Times Magazine has a long, interesting article on the Robosapien. While non-technical, still a fun read. I look forward to getting one, and seeing how much I can play with my dog before he attacks.

An interesting note:
Everyone, children and adults, has dreamed of having a robot that could perform tedious chores and serve as a ''companion'' as well. It was easy to imagine a child being enlivened by a robot that he can make walk around and do things, but Tilden also suggested that the toy could engage tech-savvy adults in new ways as well, in ways that their PlayStations perhaps no longer can. (Tilden later told me that he was especially tickled by ''a guy in Florida'' who bought 20 Robosapiens and programmed them to salute his Darth Vader doll.)

getting those 20 Robosapiens might seem a bit nutty, but keep in mind that is the same cost as a high-end Aibo, and just think how much faster you'll be able to slowly pick up your laundry, after inviting 19 friends over to control the bots.

I look forward to toys becoming more useful than creations in Academic labs (also discussed in the article), at which point my dog, among others, will have something to worry about.