Friday, May 06, 2005

General Purpose Androids Needed

This article, "Robots' future in hobbyists' hands" got me thinking. Marshall Brain's comment on this article was "This may be true in the U.S., but certainly not in Asia. This is why Japan, Korea, China, etc. are likely to dominate the robotics marketplace. They have a huge head start."

As much as I respect Marshall, I have doubts about his take on this. Firstly, although the Asians are pouring big bucks into robotics now, they may give up. Technology areas have been abandoned before if they didn't yield large profits soon enough. Right now, Asian spending on robotics is more of an investment in the semi-distant future than the pursuit of immediate rewards. Secondly, if specialized robots can't get off the ground in the US due to limited mass-market potential, is the long-term situation really all that much different in Asia where cheaper labor is often right next door, geographically speaking?

The article states "only 42,000 industrial robots are consumed each year, according to some estimates" but doesn't say if that's for the US or for the world. Either way, it doesn't seem that there's a very large demand for specialized robots. What's needed is general purpose androids which could fill many jobs currently performed by humans. This would allow mass-market economies of scale.

Then again, I could be wrong...


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