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Why robots are ready for takeoff

April 17, 2013 | Telepresence Options

romotive robot
Story and Images by Keller Rinaudo / CNN

At Romotive, we are obsessed with robots. We're a team of nerds, and we grew up watching science fiction that prominently featured robots doing extraordinary things to help or protect their human counterparts. We figured that as adults, our lives would be better because of robots.

Unfortunately, that hasn't happened yet, and robots remain one of the great unfulfilled promises of science fiction. We think that's going to change over the next decade.

First, the barriers to entry in robotics that have typically precluded individuals or small teams from building robots are falling away. The rise of cheap rapid-prototyping tools like 3-D printers is making it possible for just about anyone to design and print physical products from the comfort of their homes.

Moreover, open-source electronics platforms�like Arduino�mean that hobbyists can now create custom electronic systems without having to go through the expensive process of manufacturing custom circuit boards.

Also, crowdfunding websites like Kickstarter are making it possible for companies to test the traction of new robots and secure initial orders before choosing to scale production.

Even more importantly, the ubiquity of smart devices is changing the way that people are thinking about robotic controllers and robots themselves. Smart phones today have powerful processors, an array of sensors, and a user interface that everyone already understands. These are crucial assets for a robot, and many startups are now exploring the possibilities of using smart devices as controllers or even brains for a wide variety of robotic creatures.

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