Yesterday, Carnegie Mellon, one of America's leading universities in the emerging field of robotics, announced that it had developed a new series of robots that could be designed using off-the-shelf software and hardware and were simple enough for novices and grade-schoolers to use. The robotic tool kit is dubbed Terk (short for Telepresense Robot Kit), and the project was funded by Google
However, the project's leader, Illah Nourbakhsh, a professor at Carnegie Mellon, was quick to point out that the purpose of the project was to get students -- especially students who might not ordinarily be interested in building robots (e.g., non-geeks) -- interested in the field of robotics. More specifically, he added that there was "no incentive" to make money off of the project.
I have no reason to doubt the veracity of this claim, but it doesn't take much imagination to see how all of the sponsoring companies might benefit from a growing interest in robotics. Among the many things these robots can already do is connect wirelessly over the Internet. As users begin to explore and experiment with different and new applications such as applying Web cameras and GPS systems to robots, it's entirely possible that they'll begin employing makeshift robots to guard their homes, monitor their pets, or, among other things, create more interactive robotic toys.
More importantly, these users will begin to grow increasingly comfortable with robots, and it's this change I would encourage investors to focus on. For instance, there are already plans for a Terk robot to be built from an iRobot
Microsoft, for example, could very well benefit from supplying the operating systems; Intel from supplying chips to the various components of these robots; and Google from finding innovative ways to exploit robots' unique ability to be controlled via the Internet and monitor locations with webcams.
None of these applications will occur overnight, but I'm convinced that the public's growing interest in robotic technology isn't just a passing fad. I encourage patient, long-term investors to stay abreast of trends in the field because as people become more comfortable with robots -- as result of programs like Terk -- the field will grow up fast.
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