Heartland Robotics Chairman and CTO Rodney Brooks asks: What will it take for robots to be added to the toolchest of the makers of American manufacturing, so that they can increase productivity, provide better jobs for American workers, and compete even more strongly in our globalized world?
Following on President Obama's call to "begin again the work of remaking America," Maker Faire 2009 was organized around the theme of Re-Make America. Held in the San Francisco Bay Area, Maker Faire celebrates what President Obama called "the risk takers, the doers, and the makers of things."
Robotics legend Rodney Brooks cofounded iRobot Corporation—maker of the Roomba and the military PackBot—serving as CTO for nearly two decades. His latest venture, Rethink Robotics, aims to make robots ubiquitous in the workplace, with low-cost, easy-to-train droids that can work right alongside humans on the shop floor. The company’s first industrial bot, named Baxter, was recognized as one of the breakthrough inventions of 2013 by Technology Review. Born and raised in Australia, Brooks began his career as a research scientist at Carnegie Mellon and later taught at Stanford. In 1984 he joined the faculty of MIT, where he became the Panasonic Professor of Robotics and directed the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory from 1997 until 2007. Brooks costarred in the 1997 Errol Morris film Fast, Cheap & Out of Control—named after one of his scientific papers.
Design, construction, and use of machines (robots) to perform tasks done traditionally by human beings. Robots are widely used in such industries as automobile manufacture to perform simple repetitive tasks, and in industries where work must be performed in environments hazardous to humans. Many aspects of robotics involve artificial intelligence; robots may be equipped with the equivalent of human senses such as vision, touch, and the ability to sense temperature. Some are even capable of simple decision making, and current robotics research is geared toward devising robots with a degree of self-sufficiency that will permit mobility and decision-making in an unstructured environment. Today's industrial robots do not resemble human beings; a robot in human form is called an android.