Robots Dreams and Reality: From Then To Now

From Dreams to Dark Ages

When I was a kid in the late 60's early 70's I watched shows like Lost in Space and Forbidden Planet, the robots featured were pure science fiction. Personal computers were not here yet and they were huge machines with big tape reels. When computers like the Apple II came along it seemed as though perhaps the dreams of robots might not be far off.

Finally in the 1980's the first robot boom came. We had the Hero Robots, with sonar, infra red and light sensors. They also interfaced with your IBM computer. We also had the Omnibots, Hearoid, Topo from Androbot. Nolan Bushnell the founder of Atari claimed the robot age was here. Unfortunately these robots just didnt quite meet people's expectations. This new wave of robots perished almost overnight, and through the 1990's there was absolutely nothing, it seemed the dream was dead for now.

Those of us who held on to this dream of having our own personal robots dabbled in home built kits and dealt with endless frustration.

Then New Hopes and Possibilities

My Robot CollectionFinally in 1999 Sony gave birth to the new age of robots with Aibo and the promise of a robot with vision, the ability to learn, and walk!

Those of us aware of what this robot meant awaited eagerly for the noon hour of the day they were to go for sale on line, a mere $5,000! They sold out immediately and I was a lucky buyer. It was truly a wonderous day when my wife woke me up and said "He's here!"

Turning on that little robot and finally seeing the technology I dreamed of for years come to life was truly one of the top 5 magical moments of my life! He could see and later models had voice and face recognition. There was also a promise of humanoid robots like Quiro coming. Sadly the $2000 price tag on these dreams was just too much, and not long ago Sony put their robot division to sleep. A sad day indeed!

Dawn of Robosapien

Robosapien Then along comes Wowwee and a little robot they called Robosapien. Here we had another milestone for us.

This robot could walk, hear and was full of fun. More then that for us hobbyists he was super hackable! The third wave of robotics had arrived and it is here to stay I think. Wowwee had the incredible foresight to create a robot that would please kids and novelty seekers and robot hobbyists! With the release of the RS Media I think we have come to a crossroads of sorts. Here we have a robot on the cusp of what everyone wants. He sees, interacts, talks walks and with his Linux kernel and java, a potential platform for mega hacking and new strides in robotics. Almost a Qrio for alot less the price. So Wowee is bridging the gap from highly expensive dreams to economical fun robots with hackable potential.

We now also have robots that vacuum, scrub our floors, and entertain us.

Pleo and I-Sobot are just on the horizon, it seems that before long robots will be as commonplace as our personal computers.

So I think back to those days when I looked at those "Sci-Fi" robots and wonder whats next? Will our robots continue to catch up with their Sci-fi counterparts soon? Is the book about a robot uprising as far fetched as one would think. With computers and robotics technology growing in intelligence, speed and sophistication, I wonder.....