Tough Love for Robots

Tough Love Robot

Critical articles are good for an industry because they make people think. The Register has an article called, “Why do robot experts build such lousy robots?” which focuses on the fact that most of what is coming out today isn’t useful in the consumer marketplace. I have to agree with a lot of the sentiments in the article. I myself tire of all the big claims that come out of research labs about how this or that technology will change the world. The real case is that the gap between a labratory concept and commercial product viability is greater than the one between Paris Hilton’s ears. And that’s not a small gap.

The criticism that today’s roboticists need to focus harder on real world applications is a fair one. For new technologies to survive and find revenue support they need to prove their viability at improving our lives. Self parking cars that only work half assed are not particularly useful integrations of robotics into our lives. Such “innovations” are gimmicks at best. We know how to park our damn cars. We’ve been doing it for 100 years. What next, a robot that helps me scoot my chair in? The Roomba was a great application of robotics to the consumer market space, hence it’s tremendous success. People want to see this kind of integration repeated.

I’m okay with being harsh on roboticists (including myself) because we all need consistent reminders that the market place is harshly Darwinian. Just because WE may be able to imagine wonderful uses for the technologies we play with in the lab, doesn’t mean they have any real world viability in the current market place today. That’s a problem. Research dollars only take you so far. Eventually you have to create something people can use. Tough love is a good thing. It helps keep us focused on the task at hand, and that is building useful technologies.
Big thanks to Cris Kilner for pointing us to the article in his blog dotnetrobot

One Response to “Tough Love for Robots”

  1. Perston says:

    We are always on the look out for new robotics that are more than just toys. We sell robotic lawn mowers than anyone else in the world and if we could find a robotic vaccuum cleaner that did not break down every few months at a reasonable price we would sell a lot of those too. We are waiting excitedly for the new robotic pool cleaner to come out from one company. And we are hoping some other robotic ideas that are being tossed around will be put into production as well. The market appears to be geared toward toys and kids in hopes of getting them familiar so when they get to where they can buy these machines it will be comfortable and easy to understand. There are plenty of new robots on the horizion, the next step after that is to get one robot that can do multiple things. For some reviews on Robotic Lawn Mowers check out http://www.bamabots.com

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