The Robots are Coming

From: Jeff Davis (jdavis@socketscience.com)
Date: Sat Jan 15 2000 - 13:10:02 MST


Good morning boys and girls,

The following article, forwarded from Eurekalert gave me such a warm and
fuzzy feeling that I just had to pass it on. What a way to start the day!

Purdue News

        January 14, 2000

        Robots are evolving, population is
        booming worldwide

        WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. The population
        of robots nearly doubled over the last
        decade in North America alone, and they
        are becoming increasingly important in
        applications ranging from quality control to
        space exploration, surgery to the service
        industry.

        So says the most recent edition of the
        "Handbook of Industrial Robotics,"
        complete with a forward by late
        science fiction writer Isaac Asimov
        and contributions from 120 experts,
        some of them giants in research and
        industry. The term "industrial robots"
        refers to all robots manufactured by
        industry, not simply robots used in
        industry.

        The handbook's editor, Purdue University
        industrial engineering professor Shimon
        Nof, says robots have been steadily
        evolving since the book's first edition was
        published 15 years ago.

        "It is interesting to see that the principles
        we covered in the first edition are still
        correct, but we know so much more," Nof
        says. "We are getting to think about
        coordination and collaboration among
        machines and multi-robot system, and there
        is even a section on group behavior of
        robots, where different kinds of robots can
        help each other perform certain jobs. The
        importance of this second edition of the
        handbook is to summarize where we are
        today."

        Half of the chapters in the nearly
        1,400-page handbook are new, including
        one chapter on "human factors" in robotics.

        "Maybe in 1985 it was just a vision to
        integrate humans and robots," says Nof, who
        specializes in "robot ergonomics," or
        improving the ease and efficiency with
        which people and robots work together.
        "Today, it is quite common to have teams
        that include both robots and people."

        Examples of such integration include
        applications in manufacturing, agriculture
        and construction. Since the first edition of
        the handbook, robotics has benefited from
        innovations in technologies dealing with
        electronic controls and sensors, computer
        vision systems, virtual reality, artificial
        intelligence, nanotechnology and other
        areas.

        At the same time, the field recently has seen
        the emergence of new types of devices,
        including tiny micro- and nano-robots and
        robots with multiple arms or legs.

        Meanwhile, popular attitudes about robots
        have changed over the past 15 years, as
        well, Nof says.

        "The fear that robots would replace
        workers has completely disappeared," he
        says. Instead of displacing large numbers of
        employees, robots have brought about a
        more highly trained work force better
        capable of running robots and computers.

        "We have many more trained people in
        robotics now," Nof says. "Some new
        challenges for robotics researchers are
        better human-robot collaboration interfaces,
        robot mobility and navigation in unknown
        surroundings, and better robot intelligence
        for services and for public transportation."

        The handbook, which sells for $150, was
        published last summer by John Wiley &
        Sons Inc. It is intended as an educational
        resource for students, engineers and
        managers and is accompanied by a
        multimedia CD-ROM that includes
        segments on the history of robotics and
        descriptions of various types of robots,
        along with pictures and videos.

        Among some of the trends detailed in the
        handbook:

         The number of robots per 10,000
        manufacturing employees skyrocketed from
        1980 to 1996. For example, it went from 8.3
        to 265 in Japan, 2 to 79 in Germany, 3 to 38
        in the United States and zero to 98 in
        Singapore.

         In roughly the same time frame, the world
        robot population surged, going from about
        35,000 in 1982 to 677,000 in 1996 and an
        estimated 950,000 in the year 2000.

         In the five years from 1992 to 1997, the
        robot population in North America shot up
        78 percent, from 46,000 to 82,000.

        Source: Shimon Nof, (765) 494-5427,
        nof@purdue.edu

        Writer: Emil Venere, (765) 494-4709,
        evenere@uns.purdue.edu

        Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;
        purduenews@uns.purdue.edu

        Related Web sites:
        Robotic Industries Association

                        Best, Jeff Davis

           "Everything's hard till you know how to do it."
                                        Ray Charles



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