Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto!

When I read Bill Gates’ article “A Robot in Every Home” in Scientific American last year, I automatically thought Roombaof my favorite every day robot Roomba (yah, I’m that lazy). While my Roomba, affectionately named Rosie, is a trusted friend who always manages to keep my carpet clean, it’ll be a long time till Roomba’s predecessors are affordable for every home.And although Roomba seems to be just an intelligent vacuum who looks like she belongs in a zoo, she is also an investment in robotics’ history in homeware.

In the article, Bill Gates compares the robotic industry to the PC industry in the 1970s, when it was hard to predict where PC development was heading. However, it is certain that robots are going to be equally important as PCs have been in revolutionizing education, communication, the work place, etc. I would imagine with robots who could work in dangerous areas and with hazardous materials, horrible accidents of coalminers being trapped underground would be a thing of the past. Bill Gates also mentions how robots could potentially make life easier for the elderly by offering physical help and even companionship like a pet. Robots can even change the way we view health care by allowing the treatment of patients in the convenience of their own homes. But all these possibilities seem to mean that there will be a loss of employment and a potential emergence of a fear similar to Ludditism. Not only do we need to invest in Old Glory Robot Insurance, we need to make sure we won’ be overshadowed by a robot at our next interview. If the RAP robot can already produce and sign paintings, I might as well quit while I’m ahead.

The International Federation of Robotics believes by 2008, there will be 9 million personal robots in use around the world. The Japanese Robot Association estimates that by 2025, this personal robot industry will be worth more than $50 billion. But is the robotics industry, like every commercial market, fueled by a desire for money or is there a genuine interested in providing beneficial services? And will people who really require robots be able to afford them?

By the way, if you find it frustrating sitting in front of a computer you can’t use during discussion, follow the directions here.


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