May 1, 2003
Robots, which have traditionally been hidden away in factories, are gradually emerging in public, much as computers began to move from industry to homes in the 1970s. Today house-cleaning robots are for sale, and researchers are looking for the killer app that will make robots indispensable in the average home.
Up until now, robots have been used mainly for specialized applications (as were computers, initially) or for research, says Reid Simmons, professor at Carnegie Mellon University. Now, iRobot, a company whose market previously consisted of the U.S. military, law enforcement, energy, industrial cleaning and toy industries, has entered the consumer marketplace with Roomba, an Intelligent FloorVac.
Pradeep Khosla, Director, C3S; Head, Electrical and Computer Engineering and Information Networking Institute; Philip and Marsha Dowd Professor, College of Engineering and School of Computer Science, said, the killer apps are going to be more in the area of household robotics, and in order for robots to proliferate in homes, robots will have to miss the step that computers took . . . Robots will have to be multi-functional, according to Illah Nourbakhsh, assistant professor at Carnegie Mellon University. Manufacturers want you to buy robots "in the same way youd buy a toaster, meaning that if you buy a machine like Roomba, it is limited to one task, vacuuming, Nourbakhsh said. (Summary of Pittsburgh Tribune-Review article from Carnegie Mellon Media Coverage.)