The Meaning of Open Robotics

What is the real future of robotics?

Published At 2014-08-29 19:12:21, By Connor Shannon

We live in an age of countless technical wonders. The machine has freed billions of people from a lifetime of unrelenting toil. 1.5 million robots work tirelessly to produce our cars and electronics, process modern materials, and fill countless other roles. Robots by Industry.

However, robotics is poised to break out of our factories. Advances in computing power and machine learning, combined with decades of research in computing science are allowing robots to perform incredibly complex tasks in a dynamic world. Today's robots can follow people across difficult terrain carrying heavy loads. They work directly with humans. They perform amazing acrobatic feats. And cars drive themselves down our roads.

All these advances are incredibly exciting, but these are all prototypes. They are too expensive right now to have a major economic impact. However, history tells us that like any technology, soon robotic capabilities will increase while price sinks. What happens when robots become cheaper than humans for more and more jobs?

I believe there is a simple solution, though the path there is necessarily complex. Corporate ownership of robots is restricted, while private acquisition is subsidized or financed. Individuals rent out their personal robots to corporations, or use them for a business. The working man can make a living without working. Robots should become the beasts of burden of the 21st century.

How do we approach a future like this? I think the way could be decentralized manufacturing and a new cottage industry. As CNC manufacturing techniques like 3D printing and waterjet cutting become cheaper and better in parallel with robotics technology, one could easily imagine cheap sensors and servo motors being quickly integrated into a tested open source design with equipment found in a small community. Complicated automation could be put back into the hands of craftsmen with the latest CNC machinery, their millions of minds linked in parallel by the world wide web.

Really though this is all a nice daydream. Nobody really knows what the future of robotics is. But I think it's important to make new opportunities in robotics, and provide resources for people trying to get involved. That's why we're trying to collect lessons, exercises, and tutorials on robotics and make them available to anyone. That's why we want to help people build their skills through real robotics projects. That’s why we want to inspire tomorrow’s engineers and demystify robotics to the public. I hope you’re as excited as I am!