Coming out of hibernation

The “Tech yet to be” blog has been dormant for way too long.  Time to start refreshing the content.  So much has changed in the technology realm since the last post in 2008.

Cell phones were primitive at best back in the mid 2000’s, and now they have become an all in one device for entertainment, communication, and finding information.  The typical cell phone is full of sensors and transmitters.  It knows your location, how your moving, the temperature, humidity, light intensity, what WiFi networks are nearby, what other devices are Bluetoothing nearby, and so much more.  It is constantly in communication with the cell towers, WiFi networks, and other devices nearby.

Being able to use a cell phone as a phone has become a minor feature at best.  We are more likely to send text messages, or a quick picture to a group of people, than we are to spend time talking to a single person.  Video conferencing is an option, but not a popular one most of the time.  We can watch movies, quick clips, listen to music, track our exercise, count our calories, play games, find a geocache, or whatever the app of the moment has us doing.

Robotics are now becoming common place at work.  Whether it is machines for assembling circuit boards, or going and gathering merchandise for e-commerce.  Car assembly has long been done with robots, but now 3-D printers are creating a completely different means of assembling products.  Factories are increasingly becoming automated, and over time more and more of the components are likely to be produced on site for assembly as well.

Its been almost a decade since the 2007 DARPA Urban Challenge where autonomous cars shared the roads with real drivers to prove that self-driving vehicles had made substantial progress since the 2004 ill-fated DARPA Grand Challenge where no car passed the finish line.  Now Google, Tesla, and others are quickly accumulating miles and hours of experience in their semi-autonomous vehicles.   It will only be a few more years before autonomous vehicles are common as the ongoing strategy of getting us comfortable with the technology continues: adaptive cruise control, lane return, self-parking, and supervised self-driving are already available in commercial vehicles.

In 2015 DARPA’s Robotic Challenge showed that robots are already able to handle complex tasks such as walking over rubble, driving a vehicle, using power tools, opening doors, and climbing ladders.  While it was painful to watch and hard to differentiate between watching grass grow, it still shows that the skill sets are coming together, and performance optimizations will come with time.  Get it working first, and make it better over time is a tried and true engineering endeavor.

From the DARPA Grand Challenge of self-driving cars it appears that there is a gap of twenty years between get it working, to make it common place.  We are over half-way there with self-driving cars, and there is no doubt that in twenty years household robotics will change our lives.

While we are still drifting along, the flow is now moving us along at a progressively faster and faster rate.  So many changes in our society are bound to take place.


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