What will make 2015 a pivotal year in robotics?
A combination of factors:
- Sensors - Both capability and price/performance improvements in the sensor world make functions like facial/emotional recognition practical and robotic bodies safer in close proximity to people.
- Speech Recognition - Natural language processors have developed to the extent that non-experts can use voice commands to interact with software and hardware systems. Siri and Google Now are leading the way with Cortana and other systems to come.
- Actuators - Robots have gained improved range of motion and degrees of freedom through the widespread availability and decreased prices, making Lego-level actuators available and functional.
- Makers - The “Maker mindset” has caught hold and people are creating sophisticated hardware in a wide array of categories.
- Investors - Google, Intel and others have scooped up robotics companies and the tech and business press have publicized robotics developments accordingly.
- Popular Press - It’s hard to go a day without new stories of new robots showing up in every kind of news stream.
- Drones - Remote controlled aerial hardware was a hot toy this last Christmas. Not to mention military usage. More and more drone/GoPro videos are showing up, giving normal consumers examples of the potential of these systems. Capabilities will definitely grow.
- Functional Expansion - As robots begin to show up in more and more workplaces, leading edge users will appreciate more fully the potential for human-robot collaboration.
- Zeitgeist - Maybe the biggest factor is the current moment in cultural history. Sometimes, technological developments come along and the culture is not yet ready for them, or, conversely, perfectly suited for them. Think: Japan and healthcare robots. Globally, we are moving towards greater acceptance of robots in our daily lives; our individual and collective RoboPsychs are developing to the point where fear is overshadowed by curiosity, functional insights (“these things can help me”) and the incredible exuberance of young people in the presence of robots.