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The Future of Robots and Robotics

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The future for robotics seems unlimited. White it's probably not reasonable to expect a world populated by humans and humanoid robots living and working side-by-side anytime soon, intelligent machines are nonetheless becoming increasingly common in all areas of our life and work.

In his 2002 book, Flesh and Machines: How Robots Will Change Us, Rodney A. Brooks, director of the MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, predicted that within twenty years we will have robots that can think and experience emotions. Before we reach that advanced stage of development, robots will continue to become more autonomous and sophisticated. Colin Angle, the inventor of the robot vacuum cleaner Roomba, believes that inexpensive mechanical, self-directed devices such as his vacuum and robotic toys will usher in an age of robotics without our even realizing it. In an article published by ExtremeTech.com entitled “Future Vision: Cheap Robots Change the World,” Angle says, “We wake up one morning thinking about the past and realize that the things we take for granted are exceptionally different than they were when we were younger. In time, just as innovations like the light bulb and telephone elevated life as we know it to new standards, so will robotics.”

The companies that solely manufacture and sell robots are growing in number. There are also many job opportunities with companies that manufacture peripheral robotics equipment, like parts and software, and in industries that use robotics. These industries include the automotive, aerospace, electronics, food processing, apparel manufacturers, and pharmaceutical industries.

According to California's Employment Development Department, almost half of all engineering jobs are located in manufacturing industries. As companies increase investment in their manufacturing plants and equipment to further boost productivity and increase output of goods and services, they will need more engineers. Additional career opportunities will develop in the service robot industry and in related technologies such as artificial intelligence, simulation, and machine vision. Robots will also continue to be made smarter, more reliable, and smaller. Nanobots – robots smaller than 100 nanometers (or 100 billionth of a meter) – are being developed with countless medical and industrial applications and promise to be a burgeoning technology in the twenty-first century.

“After a quarter-century of being involved with robotics, I have concluded that the robotics industry is here to stay,” wrote Donald A. Vincent, executive vice president of the Robotics Industries Association (RIA), in the Handbook of industrial Robotics. “Robotics, robots, and their peripheral equipment will respond well to the challenges of space construction, assembly, and communications; new applications in agriculture, agri-industries, and chemical industries; work in recycling, cleaning, and hazardous waste disposal to protect our environment and the quality of our air and water; safe, reliable, and fast transportation relying on robotics in flight and on intelligent highways. Robotics prospered in the 1900s; it will thrive and proliferate in the twenty-first century.”

And to meet that demand and make that proliferation possible, robotics engineers will be needed more than ever before. Like the discoverers of fire, the inventors of the wheel, and the creators of the first airplanes, radios, televisions, and computers, robotics engineers will be at the very center of a seismic shift in human perception and possibility. They will not only be at the cutting edge of one of the world's most stimulating and daring careers, but also will be at the forefront of a tremendous cultural shift that will change life as we know it and how it is lived. Now is the time to get involved in this dynamic and revolutionary field of endeavor.

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