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Why haven't robots yet changed the world?

Sharon Gaudin | May 30, 2014
A well-known roboticist acknowledged Wednesday at an MIT symposium that robotics has yet to change the world.

Will many homes have their own robot that will babysit the kids, make dinner and clean the windows any time soon?

Probably not, according to Tedrake. However, we may have something similar.

"Maybe we'll have several small, special-purpose robots instead of one general-purpose robot," he said. "They might clean your house, cook dinner and mop the floor. Maybe we'll call them appliances instead of robots."

Experts also note that the U.S. military has big plans for robotics technology.

For instance, the U.S. Special Operations Command, which oversees special ops for the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps, has been testing weaponized robots that will aid soldiers in the battlefield, carrying their gear, scanning for threats and even firing on the enemy.

And robotics teams from around the world have been competing in a DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) challenge to build the best software to run humanoid robots that can open doors, walk over rubble and even drive a car.

Yet, robots still aren't fulfilling the dreams that science fiction movies and television shows like Terminator, Robocop and Battestar Gallactica have put in our heads.

Robots certainly haven't taken over the world and made us their human slaves, but they also aren't taking care of our kids and elderly parents. Robots aren't doing our yardwork or patrolling our streets and arresting criminals.

And the humanoid robots competing at the DARPA challenge late last year weren't always that impressive. Some couldn't open the doors -- they simply stood and stared at them. The robots that successfully traversed the rubble were painfully slow and often extremely unsteady -- and were controlled by human handlers so weren't fully autonomous.

We'll have to wait and see what the future holds.


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