Do you like robots? Of course you do! You’re reading IEEE Spectrum, so you almost certainly love robots. Robots capture our imagination. Robots are the future. Now let us ask you this: What’s your favorite robot?
We bet some of you said R2-D2. Or maybe Rosie. Or Robby. Or Johnny 5. Or Data.
These are all cool robots. We like them too! But here’s the problem: Those are not real robots. We see this happen often, especially with kids. When you ask them which robots they find inspiring, the answers typically come from science fiction.
And why is that a problem? Because we’ve reached the point where it’s clear that robots are going to affect every aspect of our lives. It won’t happen overnight, but most of us will likely see the day when robotics will be everywhere—in our homes, offices, schools, factories, hospitals, streets, and even skies.
And that’s why it’s important to focus on real-world robots, not just sci-fi ones. We want more engineers to pursue careers in robotics. We want more kids to dream of becoming roboticists and technologists, or at least be sufficiently familiar with the details of the technology to make informed, thoughtful, and ethical decisions in the future. So we need to make real robots just as inspiring as their fictional counterparts, and here at Spectrum, we have a plan to do just that.
Over the past year, we’ve been creating a massive portal for everything robotics, built around a fun and unique dynamic catalog. You can see it right now at Robots.ieee.org. There you’ll find a vast zoo of humanoids, drones, exoskeletons, quadrupeds, and other kinds of automatons, each with its own profile, with photos, videos, curious facts, and technical specifications. (We’re currently in beta, preparing for a full launch next month.)
Many profiles also have special interactives that you won’t find anywhere else: You can spin robots 360 degrees or make them move. Take joy in making the robot baby iCub crawl across the screen, wiggling the fingers of NASA’s space humanoid Robonaut, or swapping the facial expressions of lifelike android Geminoid DK.
We also want to know how you feel about all these different robots. You can rate them based on their capabilities and appearance, and then you can see how each robot ranks against the others. Based on users’ votes, we’ve created rankings to see which robots are the Top Rated, Creepiest, and Most Wanted.
The site also has a robotics news section, a game called Faceoff, and an educational section that will feature lesson plans and other STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) materials for schools interested in learning about real robots from industry, research, and startups.
If our robot guide happens to look familiar, that’s because it’s an expansion of Spectrum’s popular Robots for iPad app. If you know the app, thank you for being a user—an update is coming soon for iOS and Android. In the meantime, we invite you to check out Robots.ieee.org on your desktop, tablet, or phone for the latest content.
Our collection currently has 157 robots, and we’re going to be adding more soon. Our goal is to have robots of all types and sizes and from as many countries as possible.
So we ask again: What is your favorite robot? Go to the site and check out the robots we already have. Send us your suggestions of new robots to add by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Get them in by 15 October, and you may win an exclusive robot T-shirt. Go robots!