Trendspotting: Aye, Robot?

Posted on March 6, 2012 by Angie Argabrite

If the robotic car Google is testing can ever navigate all its roadblocks, you may one day be able to commute to work while catching some extra shut-eye. Among the burning questions: How would insurance concerns be addressed, and how would a police officer issue a traffic ticket to a robotic car? BMW, too, has designed a robotic car that uses cameras, sensors and a computer to respond to road situations. For all the questions robotic cars present, Google says they have the potential to greatly diminish the number of deaths and injuries that transpire on roadways each year. Robotics are being taken ever more seriously by experts in all realms; some surgeons now work from remote control panels, using robotic equipment to operate on patients, while Japanese scientists have created a robot that could be used in place of humans in high-risk environments (think Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plant). Amateurs around the world, and even enterprising teenagers, are making strides with robotic technology. For example, there’s the man whose robotic dogsitter—complete with onboard ball launcher and a treat dispenser—entertains his pup while he works his 9 to 5, and another man whose self-built spider robot attracted a half-million YouTube hits in a single day. One French robotic company says it believes that there will be a robot in every home in years to come and thusly rolled out its upgraded NAO robot, which sings, dances, takes pictures and speaks in nine languages. There’s even a robot in the U.K. that eats, pees and poops—leading us to wonder: “Why, exactly?” We’ll leave it to an enterprising marketer to answer that one.

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