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The Build-Up: Good and Ready

By The Economist

April 4, 2014

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The field of robotics appears to be preparing for a major acceleration after a slow start, and one reason for the rebound of interest over the past few years is the emergence of machines that are safe and inexpensive enough to find applications outside of factories.

Academic robot initiatives are ramping up as well, thanks to the uptick in computing power and sensor technology that can be acquired for a reasonable cost.

Many of the associated benefits stem from the inventive things that people operating in larger markets have been able to do with better and less-expensive chips, which robot-makers also can utilize. Innovations such as three-dimensional printing, Kinect sensors, and the Robot Operating System have increased the ease with which smaller research teams can build robots to address specific challenges.

University of Maryland robotics researcher S.K. Gupta sees such advances as drivers of the robotics field's transformation into a discipline that is more accessible to a broader research base.

Robotics companies as well as academic researchers could potentially tap funding from entrepreneurs that are inspired rather than discouraged by the field's science-fiction ambiance, and potential future advances that could have major repercussions include robots that draw on the computing power of cloud-based systems.

From The Economist
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