The Booming Business of Robots
The United States is slowing drawing down the number of troops in Afghanistan. However, the nation is also investing heavily in new technology to change the battlefield.
Companies such as iRobot are creating robots with artificial intelligence that could replace human soldiers in the future.
Artificial intelligence, also known as A.I., is advancing in incredible ways. Their activities may have not advanced to the point where they can think like HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey. However, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has funded the creation of androids and robots that can operate astounding tasks.
Take the newest creation from the Minnesota-based robotics company, iRobot. Its newest unmanned ground vehicle is a vehicle that can identify a man walking in a crowd. Just upload the person’s mugshot into the robot and the briefcase-sized droid can locate and follow that person.
This isn’t the only brilliant use of advanced robotics. One of the most fascinating new machines is known as a throwable reconnaissance robot. The latest robot from iRobot, the FirstLook, is a small device that was designed so that soldiers could throw them through windows or over walls.
These types of machines may seem more like hand grenades based on this description. They are actually miniature ground devices that can drive in a similar manner as a tank. The FirstLook is equipped with four cameras, allowing soldiers to examine the surrounding area as it moves around.
There are also unmanned aerial vehicles with extremely sophisticated movement. For example, America’s fastest drone is the $15 million Avenger, which recently began testing in Afghanistan. Its jet engine can carry a hefty payload of bombs, sensors and other types of military cargo at a speed of more than 460 miles per hour.
The most ingenious design includes the three robotic creatures from Boston Dynamics, a spin-off company from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The smallest device, the Sand Flea, can leap through a window or onto a roof nine meters high. It leaps by pushing the ground with a gas-powered piston. The Sand Flea then lands smoothly by using gyrostabilizers.
These devices are incredible creations that change the shape of the entire battlefield. Companies are also developing advanced robots that can serve the average American consumer as well. Willow Garage is one of these companies. The group has developed a personal robot, known as PR2. This is a rare research and development platform, through which other programmers can experiment with the system.
The head of the Willow Garage, Scott Hassan, is well aware of the expanding uses for robots. Hassan visited a Toyota car manufacturing plant with automated robots. According to Hassan, the plant was able to produce 500 cars per day with only 400 employees. Hassan also believes that the new machines will increase the global economy enormously in the next few decades.
Robots are quickly becoming an essential part of the future workforce. In June 2011, President Obama even announced an act called the National Robotics Initiative. This is a $70 million multi-stakeholder effort. It will accelerate the production of robots in the United States that will cooperate with our current human labor force Whether people are willing to accept the new robots in the workplace, robot development will surely become an essential investment for years to come.