We’re launching today a new massive guide to all things robotic, with over 820 photos, 680 videos, and 40 interactives. It’s a fun site designed for robot enthusiasts of all ages and backgrounds. You should go check it out right now. Seriously, stop reading this and go to robots.ieee.org.
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Hey you’re back! Found some cool robots? Clicked on any creepy ones? We really hope there was something that captured your interest. A major goal of the ROBOTS site—which is an expansion of our Robots App from a few years back—is being a resource for anyone interested in robotics, no matter if you’re a beginner or a robot legend.
Robot “profiles,” like this one for Boston Dynamics’ Atlas humanoid, include a photo and video gallery plus ratings, interesting tidbits, and technical specs.Screenshot: IEEE Spectrum
“This is the repository that future generations of humans and robots will look back upon with nostalgia,” says Rodney Brooks, MIT emeritus professor and cofounder of iRobot and Rethink Robotics, and a robot legend, too.
Brooks argues that we’ve just entered “the Cambrian explosion period of robot history,” when the number and variety of robots will expand to something beyond our wildest dreams.
We’ll try to keep up. The site today has 192 robots, and our plan is to add every major robotics project—commercial, research, startups—on the planet. Our country count right now is 19 (hello Luxembourg, we just added one of your robots!), which we think is a bit low, so if you have a robot from a place currently not on the site, let us know!
We’re also excited to be working on future interactives, which are one of the things that make the site unique. The interactives are animations that let users “play” with robots by spinning or moving them through different actions—rotating the 1,200-pound surgical robot DaVinci in 360 degrees, or making robot baby iCub crawl across the screen, for example.
“Robots are magnetic to kids”
Another goal of the site is using robots to get kids into STEM. You see, kids from an early age start off with great science and engineering instincts but many lose interest in those areas before they even reach high school. Robots could be a powerful way of keeping the STEM spirit alive in them.
“Robots are magnetic to kids,” says Daniela Rus, professor of robotics and director of MIT’s Computer Science & Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. “This catalog has the potential to inspire kids to learn computational thinking and computational making, which in turn will provide them with tools to create amazing things in the future.”
We hope so! We’ve been working with a STEM education nonprofit called Project Lead the Way, and ROBOTS is already being used in hundreds of U.S. schools. We’d love to reach even more classrooms all over the world, so if you’re a teacher or are involved in STEM, we’d love to hear from you!
Interactives let you spin and move robots on your screen—you can make the baby robot iCub crawl from side to side, for example.Image: IEEE Spectrum
A third goal for the site is getting people excited about real robots—emphasis on real. It’s okay to love sci-fi robots, but we want people to love real robots, too. Or at least learn more about them. This technology will soon be everywhere, so it’s critical that we guide its development in ways that it can benefit society.
This, in great part, will be a job for future generations, who will be just as familiar with robots as they are with smartphones today. It’s what Dominik Boesl, vice president of consumer driven robotics at KUKA, calls “Generation R”—the first generation of “robotic natives.”
“I love that this guide can help make children curious about automation technology so that they can learn, understand, and embrace robots,” says Boesl, who is also the VP of industrial activities for the IEEE Robotics & Automation Society, a big supporter of our project.
A shout-out also to our amazing Founding Sponsors: Walt Disney Imagineering, Universal Robots, Mouser, and Newark element14. These companies are passionate about robotics and STEM, and their support enables all of the ROBOTS content to be open and free to everyone.
Speaking of which, you should go check more cool robots, why not? We’ll even give you a little challenge: Go to the site and see if you can find a robot whose eyeballs can pop out of its head. Email us and we’ll tell you if you got the right answer.
Erico Guizzo is the digital product manager at IEEE Spectrum. He oversees the operation, integration, and new feature development for all digital properties and platforms, including the Spectrum website, newsletters, CMS, editorial workflow systems, and analytics and AI tools. He’s the cofounder of the IEEE Robots Guide, an award-winning interactive site about robotics. An IEEE Member, he is an electrical engineer by training and has a master’s degree in science writing from MIT.