Robots — is there anything we’re more fascinated by and terrified of at the same time?
Everyone knows that robots are cool, but the technology has also come a long way from their humble beginnings. We’ve bought robots as toys, sent them into space and let them into our bodies — and this is only the beginning.
The robotics world is far too vast and fast-growing for this to be a comprehensive list, but these are some of the most notable developments in robotics since 2000.
2000: Run, ASIMO, Run
Honda has worked on an interactive, walking robot since 1986, aiming to improve our quality of life. The company started with legs, and improved its models over time.
In October 2000, Honda debuted the famous ASIMO robot — Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility — the first one designed both to function in a human environment and also to incorporate predicted movement control (hence, a more natural walking movement). The four-foot, three-inch tall robot’s claim to fame was its advanced technology (i.e., hip joints) that allowed it to walk smoothly and climb stairs.
With newer versions released in 2002, 2005, 2007 and 2011, the most recent ASIMO not only walks, runs and turns, but it can also navigate uneven surfaces, climb stairs, reach for and grasp objects, recognize faces, map its environment, and avoid obstacles.
2001: PackBots and Sept. 11
After the Sept. 11 attacks, the collapsed buildings and landscape were too enclosed and dangerous for humans or dogs to navigate.
Remote-controlled, shoebox-sized PackBots, manufactured by iRobot, became known for being the first robots used in response to a disaster. They went where no robot had gone before: determining the structural integrity of damaged buildings, taking images and searching through rubble for survivors.
Like ASIMO, PackBots have continued to be updated and have been used in various difficult instances.
2002: Roomba, the Domestic Robot
The first truly popular domestic robot, iRobot’s Roomba let every family pretend it lived alongside the space-age Jetsons. The cordless silver disk weighed just seven pounds and provided real utility for only $199. It zoomed around the room and vacuumed your floors, all without instruction.
The Roomba turned 10 last year, and is arguably the first robot to enjoy such a degree of commercial success, to the tune of 8 million units sold.
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