Rodney Brooks ?iRobot
Roomba is made by Massachusetts-based iRobot, cnc milling machine one of many companies planning to launch a host of new robots over the next few years. New robotics products that will soon be introduced include autonomous floor cleaners and industrial tools built to do boring, dirty and dangerous work like inspecting oil wells. Of course, autonomous oil well inspectors aren't as thrilling as the robotic servants that some visionaries have predicted. But robotics and artificial intelligence are working their way into everyday life, albeit in less dramatic ways.
Rodney Brooks, Director of thecnc milling machine MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and Chairman of iRobot Corporation, has been involved in this transformation for decades. His latest book "Flesh & Machines" explores many themes related to life with robots. The book centers on Brooks' own passion for creating what he calls "situated creatures" which we can eventually regard as our teachers and companions.
Brooks' MIT A.I. Lab is filled with robotic machines, from mechanical legs to humanoids that use human-like expressions and gestures as intuitive human-robot interfaces ?something Brooks believes will be critical to people accepting robots in their lives. The first generation of relatively mundane versions of these machines is already marching out of the lab.
Rodney Brooks has a vision of a post-PC future in which sensors and microprocessors are wired into cars, offices and homes and carried in shirt pockets to retrieve information, communicate and do various tasks through speech and gesture interfaces. He insists that the age of smart, mobile machines is already beginning. You just have to know where to find them in oil wells, medical labs, financial services and construction companies.
Military & defense applications
Now iRobot has a US Defense contract to build a robot, about the size of a suitcase, which can climb stairs, crawl over ditches, survive three-story falls. Instead of carrying bombs, this robot has eyes and ears, transmitting what it sees and hears over a wireless link. This is a "Packbot" which can be thrown into a vehicle and then
hurled through windows of buildings where the enemy may have hostages.
In general, robotic systems are of great interest to the Department of Defense because they offer the ability to perform military actions at greater stand-off distances, allow dangerous missions to be performed with minimal risk to people.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is the central research and development organization for the Dept. of Defense. The DARPA "Distributed Robotics Program" seeks to work with qualified companies to develop tiny, biologically-inspired robot designs and new methods of robot control for military applications. DARPA is particularly interested in micro-miniature robots because they can be produced at relatively low unit cost and offer unique mission advantages. They can be carried and deployed by individuals and small teams to augment human capability, perform hazardous missions, and accomplish tasks that previously could not be unimagined.
Potential applications include surveillance, reconnaissance, path finding, deception, weapon delivery, and small-scale actuation. For minefield detection, small sensors are mounted on hopping robots. Small robots can be sent into city pipelines for intelligence gathering. Robots used in large numbers can be used as decoys. Extremely small robots might be injected into small spaces to pick door locks.
Because micro robots are similar to small animals and insects, biologically inspired designs (jumping, climbing, crawling, slithering, etc.) coupled with the use of MEMS and smart materials offer possibilities for novel and unique locomotion mechanisms. MEMS technology enables the integration of mechanical and electronic functions on a single silicon chip. Advanced microelectronic packaging using multi-chip modules and incorporating mixed signal electronics allows development of new ideas, integrating robotic form and function.
Robots for military applications can either be fully controlled by humans, semi-autonomously controlled, or operate autonomously. cnc milling machine To allow miniature robots to perform for extended periods of time in varied environments, innovative methods are needed to reduce power requirements, regulate energy use and provide rapid recharging.