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A Roomba of One's Own: How Household Robotics are the Next Big Thing
Among the celebrity robots that have become household names -- from C3P0 to WALL·E -- there's one that hasn't had a Hollywood career. That's the Roomba, the robotic vacuum cleaner and the sort of "practical robots" that Joseph Dyer's company, iRobot, has committed to developing. These are robots that, per to the company's slogan, "make a difference."
Take, for instance, Eva -- the robot whom Dyer introduced to the Innovation Summit's audience today. A clean white computer on an automated rolling platform, Eva is a prototye for a robotic helper that could enable the aging baby boomer generation to live independently, longer and more safely.
"This is a robot that can keep you in your home," said Dyer, who took the stage with several robotic friends. Eva is a good example of the 21st Century robot for a number of reasons. First, she's not "caged," in Dyer's words, like past robots, but mobile -- mobile enough, for instance, to run to the hardware store for a housebound patient.
With the interfacing software upgrades Dyer has planned for Eva, she will be able not only to competently respond to human beings but also to initiate interaction with them. Dyer used the example of Eva calling a family member if Eva's "owner" didn't get out of bed in the morning.
What's more, she's a domestic -- not industrial or military -- robot. And lastly, she's not out to take over the world. "We have a Schwarzenegger view of robots," Dyer said, smiling and shaking his head. "It ain't going to happen any time soon."
Dyer, who spoke almost longingly of the loveable image robots boast in Japan, is quick to shoot down the notion that the world's mechanical helpers are evil. In fact, the future of robots and the robots of the future are America's saving grace by Dyer's estimation. Robots will not only keep aging baby boomers in their homes, they'll also allow humans to focus on work that matters rather than work that doesn't, all the while increasing human efficiency in all walks of life.
"There's not going to be a place in your world where robots don't touch your life," said Dyer. Robots, according to Dyer, are the answer to the question, "What's America's next big thing?" And that's a good thing.
- A love of all things innovation is what first drew Laura to Ashoka, where she works to identify and connect leading social entrepreneurs--innovators applying new solutions to some of the oldest and most entrenched societal problems. She also serves as managing editor of Ashoka's StartEmpathy, the forthcoming online home of a movement focusing on educational innovation. Before coming to Ashoka, Laura worked as Communications Director of a mobile health technology start up building products to bring primary care into the 21st century.
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