Intel Chips, 3D Printing Could Put a Robot in Every Home
Intel chips and 3D printing could make robots as ubiquitous, affordable, customizable and diversely helpful as smartphones.What if personal robots were as ubiquitous as smartphones? What if they were as affordable as smartphones and we could download apps to them to customize them. In the way that we think about coffee shops or offices without WiFi connections as deficient, in how many years will a home without a robot seem to be utterly lacking something? These are questions Brian David Johnson, a futurist at Intel, has been asking himself and others, as he considers what technology might look like in 10 to 15 years (so that Intel can start building it today). Delivering a keynote at the CE Week conference in New York June 25, Johnson pointed out that humans have already begun living with robots—the vacuuming kind.
Thanks to the Roomba, "there are now more robots in people's homes than there are in factories," said Johnson. The thinking around robots—the kinds uninterested in the dust balls under the bed—experienced a major change two years ago, with the introduction of 3D printing.
"With 3D printing, open-source hardware design and a whole army of makers and builders and students, we could actually start bringing robots to life," said Johnson, who dreamed up Jimmy, the 21st Century Robot. (One of his team's mottos is that every robot should have a name, and so be as individual as the person who built it.)
Certainly, though, there could also be very practical and important uses for a Jimmy. Intel has been working with a lab at the University of Southern California that focuses exclusively on kids with autism, elderly people who want to remain in their homes and rehabilitation. Johnson gave an example of how a child could draw a robot, and that picture could be used as the design for a 3D-printed robot that's given to the child's grandmother and twice a day reminds her to take her medication. Regarding the lab's work with autistic children, Johnson described it as "very tricky and very important," and said that the robots are being used almost as therapists. That speaks to the bottom line of the 21st Century Robot Project. "They're a proxy for other human beings," Johnson said. "Ultimately, these robots are extensions of our own humanity." Follow Michelle Maisto on Twitter.