The October 2022 issue of IEEE Spectrum is here!

Close bar

So, Where Are My Robot Servants?

Tomorrow’s robots will become true helpers and companions in people’s homes—and here’s what it will take to develop them

11 min read
Illustration: Ben Wiseman
Illustration: Ben Wiseman

Four years ago, researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, uploaded a video to YouTube. It featured a demonstration they’d done using a powerful new robot called PR2, a dishwasher-size machine with two hefty arms and six camera eyes on its face. In the demo, PR2 stands before a disorderly pile of small towels. Then, slowly but surely, it stretches its arms, picks up a towel, and neatly folds it, even patting it gently to smooth out the wrinkles. The robot repeats the routine until no more towels are left in the heap.

The researchers were pleased with their work, but they didn’t quite expect what came next: Their video went viral. Within days, hundreds of thousands of people watched it as news of the robot spread through social media and the blogosphere. Reports popped up on newscasts and publications around the world. One Twitter user humorously summed up what the achievement might portend: “I, for one, welcome our towel-folding robot overlords.”

Keep reading...Show less

This article is for IEEE members only. Join IEEE to access our full archive.

Join the world’s largest professional organization devoted to engineering and applied sciences and get access to all of Spectrum’s articles, podcasts, and special reports. Learn more →

If you're already an IEEE member, please sign in to continue reading.

Membership includes:

  • Get unlimited access to IEEE Spectrum content
  • Follow your favorite topics to create a personalized feed of IEEE Spectrum content
  • Save Spectrum articles to read later
  • Network with other technology professionals
  • Establish a professional profile
  • Create a group to share and collaborate on projects
  • Discover IEEE events and activities
  • Join and participate in discussions

Remembering LED Pioneer Nick Holonyak

He received the 2003 IEEE Medal of Honor

3 min read
close-up portrait of man wearing glasses and suspenders holding something between his fingers

Professor Nick Holonyak, Jr., inventor of the light-emitting diode, holds a part of a stoplight that utilizes brighter, current version LED's designed by students of his.

Ralf-Finn Hestoft/Getty Images

close-up portrait of man wearing glasses and suspenders holding something between his fingersNick Holonyak, Jr. holds a part of a stoplight that utilizes a newer LED designed by his students. Ralf-Finn Hestoft/Getty Images

Nick Holonyak Jr., a prolific inventor and longtime professor of electrical engineering and computing, died on 17 September at the age of 93. In 1962, while working as a consulting scientist at General Electric’s Advanced Semiconductor Laboratory, he invented the first practical visible-spectrum LED. It is now used in light bulbs and lasers.

Holonyak left GE in 1963 to become a professor of electrical and computer engineering and researcher at his alma mater, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. He retired from the university in 2013.

Keep Reading ↓Show less

Video Friday: StickBot

Your weekly selection of awesome robot videos

2 min read
An image of a robot made of a small sticks tied together with a tangle of colorful wires, batteries, actuators, and electronics

Video Friday is your weekly selection of awesome robotics videos, collected by your friends at IEEE Spectrum robotics. We also post a weekly calendar of upcoming robotics events for the next few months. Please send us your events for inclusion.

IROS 2022: 23–27 October 2022, KYOTO, JAPAN
ANA Avatar XPRIZE Finals: 4–5 November 2022, LOS ANGELES
CoRL 2022: 14–18 December 2022, AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND

Enjoy today’s videos!

Keep Reading ↓Show less
Technology Innovation Institute

Autonomous systems sit at the intersection of AI, IoT, cloud architectures, and agile software development practices. Various systems are becoming prominent, such as unmanned drones, self-driving cars, automated warehouses, and managing capabilities in smart cities. Little attention has been paid to securing autonomous systems as systems composed of multiple automated components. Various patchwork efforts have focused on individual components.

Cloud services are starting to adopt a Zero Trust approach for securing the chain of trust that might traverse multiple systems. It has become imperative to extend a Zero Trust architecture to systems of autonomous systems to protect not only drones, but also industrial equipment, supply chain automation, and smart cities.