Are robots the next Web 2.0?

I enjoyed this Forbes article that asks if robotics is going to be the next tech bubble:

Robots will be a very big thing, and soon. What holds them back is what stunts most technology: a walled-garden approach to their systems. Robots currently do what the designers want them to do and that's it. Gadgets and gimmicks and concept robots from huge corporations all presage the moment that open-architecture robots will catapult robotics out of its niche. [...]

There is actually no technical barrier to start this wave. All that is required is the right marketing idea at the right moment. There have already been a series of near misses, from the Tandy Armatron years ago to Lego Mindstorms--a Lego set that combined electric motors and sensors with programmable Lego bricks.

They compare robotics to the computing industry: computers of course started out as large, highly specialized tools that weren't accessible to the average consumer, then the PC arrived and sparked an entire industry as users got their hands on them and developed the useful applications that make computers essential to today's lifestyle. So will this happen to robots?

Compare this to the computing industry analogy that was brought up last year at an MIT Museum event: the idea that just as we don't think of our ovens and cars as computers, they are; and just as we may not think of the kitchens and cars of the future as robots, they will be.

So is "open architecture" the answer, as the article suggests? Should I go ahead and establish the OLPC (One LEGOMindstorm Per Child) program to see what the budding robot geeks can do? Maybe more specialized component platforms -- Microsoft's Robotics Studio, for example -- will be the key, just as so many Web 2.0 services depend on AJAX. Who are the killer apps going to come from?



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