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Bill Gates on Robots

CmdrTaco posted more than 7 years ago | from the i-for-one-welcome-our-robot-overlords dept.

198

mstaj noted that Bill Gates has an article in January edition of Scientific American A Robot in Every Home."Imagine being present at the birth of a new industry. It is an industry based on groundbreaking new technologies, wherein a handful of well-established corporations sell highly specialized devices for business use and a fast-growing number of start-up companies produce innovative toys, gadgets for hobbyists and other interesting niche products. But it is also a highly fragmented industry with few common standards or platforms. Projects are complex, progress is slow, and practical applications are relatively rare. In fact, for all the excitement and promise, no one can say with any certainty when — or even if — this industry will achieve critical mass. If it does, though, it may well change the world."

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Here's wondering... (4, Insightful)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 7 years ago | (#17445206)

Why they printed an article by Bill Gates rather than one of the hundreds of professional robotics researchers in the country.

Re:Here's wondering... (3, Insightful)

Harmonious Botch (921977) | more than 7 years ago | (#17445246)

Why they printed an article by Bill Gates rather than one of the hundreds of professional robotics researchers in the country.

Because he has the people to collect info from experts and summarize it for him. And he has the cash and marketing clout to make it happen.

Re:Here's wondering... (1)

A beautiful mind (821714) | more than 7 years ago | (#17446510)

The way spam disappeared by the end of 2006?

Re:Here's wondering... (5, Insightful)

samkass (174571) | more than 7 years ago | (#17445346)

That was my exact reaction, too. I thought Scientific American generally got input from experts in the field, and Bill Gates does not qualify as an expert in robotics. (I'd argue he doesn't qualify as an expert in Software Engineering, either.) Keep the Bill Gates articles in BusinessWeek and keep Scientific American as a forum for the experts to write layman-accessible articles. And if you want to discuss robotics, visit NREC at CMU, MIT, Honda, or one of the other myriad companies in the US, Japan, and around the world that actually know something on the topic.

Re:Here's wondering... (1)

sgt_doom (655561) | more than 7 years ago | (#17446476)

I would take issue with your analysis with that august reputation of Scientific American, which has long been considered by scientists to be little more than a popular science rag, and it has indeed published works by various quacks over the years - people which NO ONE (I am the official speaker for them, of course) in the scientific community takes seriously...although that old "Connections" column (by Burke, I believe) was truly outstanding.

But I do fully agree with your analysis of of that guy Gates...

iPod ergo sum

Billy G gets to write the article (1)

kieran (20691) | more than 7 years ago | (#17446488)

... because he's not just waxing lyrical about robots - he's announcing "Microsoft Robotics Studio", a set of software tools intended to bring the robotics world together in perfect harmony.

Is there a GNU alternative in the works, I wonder?

Re:Here's wondering... (0)

CaffeineAddict2001 (518485) | more than 7 years ago | (#17445376)

He may not be an expert in robotics or even software engineering for that matter, but he is certainly an expert on what people will use in their homes.

Re:Here's wondering... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17445812)

Linux?

Re:Here's wondering... (1)

Sloppy (14984) | more than 7 years ago | (#17446440)

If that was why the had Gates write the article, then the article would have been about how to use preload/bundling agreements to circumvent market forces in order to get people to unthinkingly welcome robots into their homes. e.g. consumer buys a coffee maker, and it happens to come with a "free" coffeebot.

Instead, the article was about some threading library.

Re:Here's wondering... (4, Funny)

Mysticalfruit (533341) | more than 7 years ago | (#17446526)

You forget, the coffeebot would then steal your wallet and rape you in your sleep while yelling "My name is Garunda Mabushi and my husband worked for the Oil Ministry of Nigeria..."

Not to wonder! (2, Insightful)

ScentCone (795499) | more than 7 years ago | (#17445428)

Why they printed an article by Bill Gates rather than one of the hundreds of professional robotics researchers in the country.

Because it's Scientific American (with a very wide, cross-discpline, and NON-discpline readership and popular web site), not the Journal Of Extremely Focused Niche Robotics Researchers (which would have the same number of subscribers as it does contributors, because it would be the same people). Bill's name is universally known, and guarantees a certain amount of commentary (such as is happening right here). Plus, he's got umpty-billions to invest, and is investing in this very area, and that really, really matters.

And, of course, the people you're mentioning already publish, all the time. And if you want to seek out their thoughts, you can. This is the sort of material that generates interest among people who might not otherwise really think about it. It's sort of like Pamela Anderson talking about free range chicken farming practices, except less ... Pamela-ish. And, of course, Pamela's never farmed a chicken, whereas Bill's actually looked at some code here and there, and already has an army of 'bots.

Because said robots will run Windows (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17445484)

Probably running something like Windows Embedded Robot Edition 20XX.

When it BSODs, it'll be like a wild Roomba with a kitchen knife.

/trilogy of terror

Re:Here's wondering... (1)

SilentChris (452960) | more than 7 years ago | (#17445636)

It's not on par with anything remotely professional, but the "VB.NET" feel makes programming complex operations pretty easy. The simulation program is also pretty good (could use a graphic facelift, however).

All in all, it's sort of like their XNA initiative on Xbox 360 and their Studio Express line. Get it cheap, out there, and get people interested in programming.

I remember when I was growing up learning Logo and BASIC was a requirement in our public schools. Now the best most teenagers learn is how to post garbage on MySpace. Any push to get more programming tools in the hands of students (FOSS or otherwise) is a good thing, IMO).

Re:Here's wondering... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17446384)

For some reason, Scientific American has a hard-on for Microsoft. It seems like in every issue there is at least one article about something Microsoft is working on, even when the thing is almost completely useless to anyone except Microsoft (for example last month's article on the "Terminator" device driver debugger that failed to mention any of the hundreds of other similar projects for other platforms). This latest article reads like an ad for the company and I am extremely disappointed that Sciam chose to run it.


Some other things that piss me off is the now common "insert" that takes up the middle third of the magazine and is always an add for some university from butt-fuck albania talking about how great it is, and the opinion pieces from the token right wing guy and token left wing guy.

Re:Here's wondering... (1)

mspohr (589790) | more than 7 years ago | (#17446460)

I gave up on Scientific American many years ago... it's too much like "popular science" with this type of superficial "gee whiz" type articles and short on rigorous review articles. This Bill Gates article is typical... it's just marketing hype.

This luuks like a job for Lunix!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17446498)

Bill Gates, discussing the Robotics Industry:
But it is also a highly fragmented industry with few common standards or platforms. Projects are complex, progress is slow, and practical applications are relatively rare.

OMG... talk about a situation tailor-made for Lunix!

Lunix is the very DEFINITION of a highly fragmented industry with few common standards or platforms, and where projects are complex, progress is slow, and practical applications are relatively rare!

Re:Here's wondering... (2, Insightful)

UnknowingFool (672806) | more than 7 years ago | (#17447186)

I read the article in the magazine. It was a rather rosy assessment of the future of robotics. Bill was comparing the microprocessor revolution that enabled PCs to be in every home and seeing how the latest advancements in microprocessors and sensors would someday do the same thing for robotics.


While sensors and raw computing power have become more powerful and accessible, I felt the article did not address the problem of AI. The current generations of robots: Roomba, DARPA self driving car, have very limited functionality. To do what Gates proposed, the next generation of robots will have to have much more intelligence. This brings to mind Asimov's 3 laws. It's one thing for your robotic sweeper to be very dumb. The worst thing it could do if it went haywire is it would chase your pet around. It's another thing for your medicine dispensing robot to give you the wrong medication.

I can just imagine (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17445216)

R2D2 Blue Screening

pnfrostgnnnnPIS (1)

Helen Keller (842669) | more than 7 years ago | (#17445226)

gnnn
Gnnnnn
GNNNNNM

pnfrostygnnnnPIS

Re:pnfrostgnnnnPIS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17445918)

my HERO!

Kids today. (1)

hypethetica (739528) | more than 7 years ago | (#17445236)

Being in my mid 30's, I sort of feel that robots are going to be my generation's version of the VCR blinking 12:00. We'll use them, but not really understand them or care enough to make them do all the tricks they're designed for. This depresses me, as I told myself I would NEVER be out of touch with technology, but I really have no interest in them.

Re:Kids today. (1)

tsa (15680) | more than 7 years ago | (#17445426)

I feel your pain. I had the same with mobile phones when they came out. I told myself I'd stay on top of the industry and use all the features of my new phones. Now I have had my Nokia 3310 for four years and I'm not interested in using it for anything else than calling and sending sms messages.

Re:Droids today. (1)

MidVicious (1045984) | more than 7 years ago | (#17445612)

Well it is unplausible.

We've been hearing this "Every Household has a Robot by 2000" crap since the early 80's. Theoretically it all depends how you define "Robot". Things like the Scooba: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scooba [wikipedia.org] are basically flat little R2-D2's that roll around the house sucking up your craplets while avoiding walls. I guarantee you'll see more of these in the corporate sectors ala the mouse droids running from growling Wookiees.

As far as Robby the Robot or the little girl from Small Wonder (remember her?) forget it. There is no practical application of owning a protocol type droid unless you are elderly, disabled, and don't get on with humans very well. I mean, how feasible is it to pay $5000+ dollars to order your droid to fetch you another beer while you sit on your ass watching Deal or No Deal?

The argument may be, spouses or siblings are far more expensive and often question the beer fetching with their limited albiet effective logic and reasoning ability (pesky humans), but the praticality of a fully functioning human depending on a questionably functioning Microsoft Robot is dim. After awhile that fetch droid becomes that cool massager/remote control chair you bought at Sharper Image years ago that's now sitting in the basement collecting spider webs.

And a Microsoft robot? Sheesh!

It's all fun and games until Microsoft Nanny crashes mid-stairwell and drops granny to her doom.

Re:Droids today. (1)

vertinox (846076) | more than 7 years ago | (#17446260)

There is no practical application of owning a protocol type droid unless you are elderly, disabled, and don't get on with humans very well. I mean, how feasible is it to pay $5000+ dollars to order your droid to fetch you another beer while you sit on your ass watching Deal or No Deal?

Keep in mind $5,000 is much as some real dolls and I believe there is a market for fully automated versions.

Secondly, I would gladly pay $5,000 (or more) for a general purpose house hold robot. This would of course have to carry laundry from my room to the washing machine and then fold it and put it away. It should also be able to take dishes off the table or sink and wash them or put them in a washing machine and then put them away after it is done.

Me lazy? Kind of, but you only live once and humans have shown they don't want to spend the majority of their life doing household chores.

The key is getting the jump from Roomba to Chobits/Androids. I believe a Japanese lab has promised to get a walking android up and "running" by 2010. That is only 3 years away.

Besides the consumer application, general purpose robots (if cheap enough) could replace a great deal of manual labor everywhere. This is the goal of most Japanese car companies (Honda/Toyota) because of the labor shortage Japan is having right now.

And the military will continue with robots until it can remove the human factor from the majority of combat situations making wars politically reasonable as in "Wars without casualties". At least casualties for the US.

But personally, I'd be happy with a consumer model of Stanley's winning car to drive me places.

re: robots in war (1)

King_TJ (85913) | more than 7 years ago | (#17446822)

I used to think the same thing about robots... that the military would be the economic driver, advancing the technology, because they'd eventually like to use them to replace human soldiers in wars.

It just occurred to me, though, that this may not help with human casualties at all. I think one of the main premises to having a war is injuring the opposing side so badly that both the leaders and the general population are finally willing to give in to the demands of the opposition.

If you're just blowing up a bunch of the enemy's robots, you're doing little more than costing them money to build replacements. Don't you think that long before you bankrupted a country into submission this way, they'd decide to do something "more effective", and start directly bombing/killing the factories and people responsible for their construction? And as soon as that started, all bets would be off on killing humans. So back to a "standard" war we'd go.

Re:Droids today. (1)

emil10001 (985596) | more than 7 years ago | (#17446564)

"There is no practical application of owning a protocol type droid"

What about to replace minimum wage workers at fast food restaurants, or other menial jobs. If you only had to pay $5000 up front, and let's say $5000 in repairs over a year, that'd cost you about $10,000. Now, minimum wage is around we'll say $6/hr, and let's say that this place of business is open for 15 hours a day, 7 days a week, so 6($)*15(hours)*7(days)*52(weeks)=$32,760/year for a single minimum wage employee to be available during normal business hours. So, for the price of one Human, you could have three Droids. So, even at $10,000 up front and $5,000 in repairs per year, you could afford two droids. Also, after one year, the cost savings increases even more, because all you have to pay for are repairs and electricity to charge them, or fuel or whatever. Now, this is not having a droid in the home, but as you mentioned they could also be sent as helpers for the elderly or disabled, which I'm sure that the insurance companies would see the cost/savings over a worker that gets paid much more than $6/hr.

Another thing to note would be that when pc's first came out, didn't some people wonder why one person would need so much computing power in their own home? With robots, I'm sure that if there is a standardized set of hardware (reasonably priced), and one can use some programming language to program these things, that there will be hobbyists to build and program these things. That is certainly not unreasonable, especially if you look at something like the battlebots (yes, they are remote controlled, but do have quite a bit of room to program controls, features, etc.). Battlebots are expensive to build, and are designed to be destroyed, but people build them anyways. So, it is not strictly necessary that these things have any real uses right away, but it would probably be helpful to standardize enough of them to make it easier/cheaper for hobbyists who want to build/program.

I agree (1)

VincenzoRomano (881055) | more than 7 years ago | (#17445248)

... unless they will run som Microsoft operating system.

Re:I agree (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17445472)

I demand that all robots run with a Microsoft operating system.

After all, do you know of any other way to ensure that they won't become our overlords?

I guess (5, Funny)

jaymzru (1005177) | more than 7 years ago | (#17445250)

It's all fun and games until the robots become hot asian girls, indistinguishable from humans, and pop out half cylon half human babies that can cure cancer. That's when the crap hits the proverbial fan. Bill has already requested a patent.

Re:I guess (1)

TheDreadSlashdotterD (966361) | more than 7 years ago | (#17445850)

So, Bill is Borg? I personally won't be satisfied until I see gundams and skynet realized. Skynet using gundams would be even better though.

And could you imagine Skynet's calculated assault when it defends itself against that patent. It sends joy through every neuron in my body.

Re:I guess (1)

corbettw (214229) | more than 7 years ago | (#17447210)

It's all fun and games until the robots become hot asian girls....

"Until"?

Many robots in our homes already (4, Insightful)

davidwr (791652) | more than 7 years ago | (#17445256)

Let's see...

Roomba.
Robotic multi-disk CD changer.
"Soft-touch" tape deck, VCR, CD and DVD players, and anything else that sucks in your disk or tape before playing then spits it back out at you when it's done.
Vintage-1980s Macintosh floppy drives.
Toy robots including remote-control cars for the kiddies of all ages.

And the list goes on.

The robots in your home are hiding in plain sight.

Re:Many robots in our homes already (1)

lastchance_000 (847415) | more than 7 years ago | (#17445606)

Of course, by that logic, your toaster is a robot. I think you need to narrow your definition a bit.

Re:Many robots in our homes already (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 7 years ago | (#17445910)

None of those (with the possible exception of Roomba) are robots. They do not have the ability to choose from alternatives, they cannot react to unanticipated input, and they do not learn from experience.

Re:Many robots in our homes already (2, Interesting)

Hymer (856453) | more than 7 years ago | (#17446312)

...so by your definition an industrial robot (the type used in car factories) isn't a robot...

Re:Many robots in our homes already (1)

Knara (9377) | more than 7 years ago | (#17446764)

GP apparently has "robot" confused with "android" or "robot possessing complex AI". Of course, this is similar to the problem that AI faces in that once a machine can accomplish something that previously would have been considered to be an "intelligent" behavior, the bar gets moved again.

Re:Many robots in our homes already (1)

lysdexia (897) | more than 7 years ago | (#17446932)

If I'm not mistaken, the roomba sweeping patterns were partially developed using neural nets. I guess one could say that the progenitor roomba did learn from experience, then all the roombae that followed had the most successful one(s) burned in.

Re:Many robots in our homes already (1)

MBGMorden (803437) | more than 7 years ago | (#17446372)

Awe come on. That's like a poor kid asking the mall Santa Claus for a computer for Christmas, and said santa pointing to the kid's digital watch and saying "You've already got a computer.", followed by maniacal laughter. Just because it's *technically* true, don't mean that's what we're talking about ;).

Imagine.... (1)

pottymouth (61296) | more than 7 years ago | (#17445258)



Imagine wondering each day if your new robot butler (running Windows for Robots) is going to burn down the house because MS Assured Computing has once again been breached by yet another 12 year old hacker.

Kill it before it grows......

Worship at the altar of Security through Obscurity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17446708)

Oh, by the way... how is the "Month of Apple being proven the security train wreck it really is [blogspot.com] " working out? Only 28 more flaws left in the month!

People who live [securitytracker.com] in glass operating systems [securitytracker.com] shouldn't throw stones.

Apple!!! Lunix!!! pwnt!!!

I'm looking forward to the next article (1)

JamesP (688957) | more than 7 years ago | (#17445260)

Zombies on Bill Gates

Oh, come on, that would be really cool...

M$ planning to take over the world (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17445264)

Microsoft (with the help of the robots) is planning to take over the world
Denis the SQL Menace
http://sqlservercode.blogspot.com/ [blogspot.com]

Your Roomba has a plan (2, Funny)

Weaselmancer (533834) | more than 7 years ago | (#17445280)

Be warned. [youtube.com]

Anyone else thinking... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17445330)

"This is Bill Gates."

"This is Bill Gates ON ROBOTS!"

Microsoft + Robots = (4, Funny)

Rik Sweeney (471717) | more than 7 years ago | (#17445344)

The scene from I, Robot where all the androids take over the city...

while Microsoft mumble something about patch Tuesday.

Does This Mean... (1)

EXTomar (78739) | more than 7 years ago | (#17446032)

Does this mean that if there is a huge "flaw" (euphamism for rampaging and attacking) in Xrobot (Xs in the name of your product appeals to the young hip crowd) that we have to wait patiently for Patch Tuesday no matter how dire the consequences and how much people scream (literially) for it to be fixed?

Better bolt down... (0, Offtopic)

dyslexicbunny (940925) | more than 7 years ago | (#17445348)

all your chairs lest you worry about "All your chairs are thrown by us."

Sheesh (0, Offtopic)

n1hilist (997601) | more than 7 years ago | (#17445364)

Maybe it the article's title read, "Bill Gates on Meth" .. maybe then I'd read!

I wish (1)

spykemail (983593) | more than 7 years ago | (#17445372)

Great, I'll just hop in my flying solar powered car and drive over to Wal-Mart to pick up that realistic robot cat I always wanted.

I have a Roomba and a Scooba (5, Funny)

BigHungryJoe (737554) | more than 7 years ago | (#17445442)

I have a Roomba and a Scooba to do my bidding. This might surprise you - they actually work. I was skeptical at first, but goddamnit my floors are clean now. And if they can keep MY floors clean - I have 2 cats each with their own litter box - they can keep anyone's floor clean.

My floors are so clean now, I divorced my wife. Don't need her anymore.

-BHJ

Re:I have a Roomba and a Scooba (1)

Daetrin (576516) | more than 7 years ago | (#17445662)

My floors are so clean now, I divorced my wife. Don't need her anymore.

Well don't get _too_ attached to your vacuuming robots. [darwinawards.com]

Re:I have a Roomba and a Scooba (1)

EJSully (998820) | more than 7 years ago | (#17445746)

Awesome.

Re:I have a Roomba and a Scooba (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17445894)

My floors are so clean now, I divorced my wife. Don't need her anymore.

I still need my wife. I kid you not, right this very second a newly-repaired Scooba is cleaning the hall. It hadn't been working for a bit because it got seriously gunked up, but my wife was the first one to lose enough patience to clean the robot up. If I didn't have my wife, Scooba would still be gunked up.

I..err..wonder why I chose to post this anonymously?

Re:I have a Roomba and a Scooba (1)

tsjaikdus (940791) | more than 7 years ago | (#17446206)

but goddamnit my floors are clean now

Well, I guess they are. During my university years I shared a house with another student who vacumed his room every so many months. He never noticed the tube was blocked.

Re:I have a Roomba and a Scooba (1)

kwerle (39371) | more than 7 years ago | (#17446480)

I have a Roomba and a Scooba to do my bidding. This might surprise you - they actually work. I was skeptical at first, but goddamnit my floors are clean now. And if they can keep MY floors clean - I have 2 cats each with their own litter box - they can keep anyone's floor clean.

OK, I'm not yet sold, but willing to be sold.

I have rugs, furniture that comes to within 2" to the floor, plenty of chair and table legs to contend with, and most importantly:
many of my rooms have floors that are as much of 3/4" higher or lower than the room next to it, meaning lots of thresholds.

Can a Roomba keep my floors clean?

Re:I have a Roomba and a Scooba (1)

BigHungryJoe (737554) | more than 7 years ago | (#17446666)

I seen the roomba get stuck and do its little 'roomba dance' to get unstuck from a lot of obstacles, but constantly traversing 3/4" inch differences in floor level? I think that's probably too much for it to handle.

Re:I have a Roomba and a Scooba (1)

ShannaraFan (533326) | more than 7 years ago | (#17446894)

The 2" clearance and the 3/4" thresholds will be a problem. Chair and table legs, not a problem, at least not on a smooth floor. My Roomba has no problem cleaning under the dining room table. It happily spins itself in various directions until it finds a way through the chair legs.

Re:I have a Roomba and a Scooba (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17446904)

When was the last time you looked in the corners of your rooms?

Re:I have a Roomba and a Scooba (5, Funny)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 7 years ago | (#17446910)

My floors are so clean now, I divorced my wife. Don't need her anymore.

Okay, but I recommend against using your Roomba or Scooba for *ahem* unintended uses, so you might want to keep the wife around. Of course as soon as they come out with the Scrooba that won't be true anymore. Also humanity, or at least Western civilization, will be doomed.

I imagine (1)

RealProgrammer (723725) | more than 7 years ago | (#17445460)

...there's a need for maybe 5 robots in the world.

On a more serious note, ever notice that whenever there's a disruptive technology, someone learns how to make the rest of us regret it? Factories led to smog and cars, cars led to more smog, smog led to Al Gore, Al Gore led to the Internet, the Internet led to email, email led to spam, spam led to blogs, blogs led to this post.

So I wonder how the smog-loving, CO2-belching spammers of the world will abuse robots? "Sir, you have a phone call. Sir, you have a phone call. A phone call, sir. It could be the President or a wealthy dying relative! SIR, YOU HAVE A PHONE CALL. HEY NIMROD, IT'S FOR YOU!"

Forget Microsoft... (2, Insightful)

creimer (824291) | more than 7 years ago | (#17445470)

I would trust Lego to get the mass consumer robotics done right.

U.S. Robots and Mechanical Men, Inc. (2, Interesting)

tsa (15680) | more than 7 years ago | (#17445480)

I always had the impression that U.S. Robots and Mechanical Men, Inc. was the MS of the future. They had all the characteristics of an omnipresent, very powerful monopoly.

We have one! (3, Interesting)

MBCook (132727) | more than 7 years ago | (#17445522)

I just got a Roomba Sage off Woot about two weeks ago. I've got to say I love the little thing. It does a fantastic job and is actually fun to watch, especially if you're a gadget person.

"I love robots!"

It does a very good job and picked up and AMAZING amount of crud off my floors and filled up it's lint filter. I really ought to go over those rooms again to see how much more it can find. But it's great to be able to put it in a room, push a button, and come back later to have it vacuumed and the Roomba happily sitting and charging on it's little home base.

As for the servant robot to bring me drinks or something like that, I think it's a while off. But there is a robot for homes that is here now and is great.

Re:We have one! - enjoy it while it lasts... (1)

mspohr (589790) | more than 7 years ago | (#17445860)

Roomba's are poor quality (but expensive) toys. They don't last. I burned through three until the warranty ran out and I gave up.

Also, they require constant tending unless you design your house for them... (i.e. they get stuck under furniture, caught on throw rugs, wires, chair legs, heater registers, and just about anything that makes a bump in the floor.)

Economics! (1)

moore.dustin (942289) | more than 7 years ago | (#17445528)

The mainstream market is just being introduced to practical robotics right now. For example, the Roomba has been around for a bit, but is still a rather new product to most people. Robotics in the home are both expensive to consumers and to manufacturer right now. As the small market(now) grows over the next year or two, companies will be able to attack a larger demographic for these products. As people become more tech savvy and are comfortable with the investment, demand will rise and give way to broader and faster innovation in the market.

Bill Gates talking about what may happen to the world if robotics hit critical mass is rather dumb right now though. The industry(robotics), in general, may be established in the way of power and ability for tasks in the workplace, but robotics in the home has barely got its collective feet wet.

Re:Economics! (1)

vertinox (846076) | more than 7 years ago | (#17446144)

Bill Gates talking about what may happen to the world if robotics hit critical mass is rather dumb right now though.

Pretend it is 1987 instead of 2007 and that we are talking about the internet bubble in 1997.

Now, just think what what life will be like in 2017.

The point here is that Bill Gates is talking about this rather than a scientist which means the prospect of robots have gone form the label to the business planning sector. Which means the consumer sector is not far off.

Re:Economics! (1)

OwnedByTwoCats (124103) | more than 7 years ago | (#17447134)

All we need is for some incredible multiplying technology like Dense Wavelength-Division Multiplexing (for networking) or Moore's Law (for processor speeds) to kick in for large physical/mechanical objects. PCs are 1,000 times more capable than they were 25 years ago, for a tenth of the money. Fiber-optic strands can send hundreds of times (discloser: SWAG) more data than they could 25 years ago.

Cars have what, doubled in horsepower, and are a bit safer, than they were 25 years ago. Perhaps 50% better in gasoline consumption. Still, the drive time from Cleveland to Rochester hasn't changed much at all, and that change was legal/political: the speed limit.

Motor control has progressed a fair amount over the last 25 years. But are the motors themselves that much different? How many times better? A 1/3rd Horsepower electric motor cost $13.85 in 1938. That's about $200 in today's dollars. A motor of similar specification can be had for $100. So the price dropped by half in 70 years.

Hans Moravec's predictions (in Robot: Mere Machine to Transcendent Mind) from just 7 years ago have fallen a bit short. And Bill Gates's predictions for the internet were spectacularly wrong by the time his "The Road Ahead" made it from final draft onto store shelves.

Some fields of human endeavor scale rapidly, and others don't. It's important to notice the differences.

next we'll ask a turtle to recommend a good cheese (1)

sgt scrub (869860) | more than 7 years ago | (#17445538)

But it is also a highly fragmented industry with few common standards or platforms. Projects are complex, progress is slow, and practical applications are relatively rare.

OK. It is like computers until the PC x86 arch was released. Wouldn't it be better to ask people that worked at IBM or Intel about what worked?

Bill who? (1)

Locutus (9039) | more than 7 years ago | (#17445586)

As if this guy and his clowns are experts on standards which promote sharing and progress. I don't think so.

It's pretty obvious that he's seeing Linux and opensource software spread in the robotics field and he wants to purchase his way into this market with his proprietary Windows platform. Pretty soon, bloggers will be getting free robots running Windows and a proprietary Microsoft framework and the bloggers will go gaga over it. On the other hand, developers will have to deal with memory leaks and work-arounds just to get their bots saying 'hello world' and they'll wait and wait for the next version of the framework which fixes some bugs and causes hundreds more.

If the world wants to see progress in consumer based robotics, open source is the only way to go. May the best APIs win. And I don't mean the one with the best marketing. IMO.

LoB

Uh huh (1)

Doctor Memory (6336) | more than 7 years ago | (#17445622)

ISTR that BG & Co declared 1985 "the year of the CD-ROM". CD-ROMs didn't become generally available to home users for almost ten years. So, I guess that maybe in ten years we might see some significant robot usage (other than Roombas, which are still pretty cool).

robots (2, Funny)

f0rtytw0 (446153) | more than 7 years ago | (#17445624)

640 robots ought to be enough for anybody.

just one word (1)

Marcos Eliziario (969923) | more than 7 years ago | (#17445626)

Run

And of course there will be a Windows for Robots (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17445634)

M$ can't possibly let this market slip by...
I can see it now a personal robot servant (that is compromised zombie) that servs spam and pop ups while doing the household chores.....

A personal robotic servant $1,500,000, a sentient spambot priceless.

Robot Insurance (2, Funny)

porkus (16839) | more than 7 years ago | (#17445644)

Looks like it's time to get that robot insurance policy Sam Waterston spoke about on TV...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L3sLE-Jk0rw [youtube.com]

New Industry (1)

TheWoozle (984500) | more than 7 years ago | (#17445646)

"Imagine being present at the birth of a new industry."

I don't have to. I witnessed the birth and explosive growth of the software industry first-hand. I'm sorry, Mr. Gates, but if you have anything to do with birth of the next big industry, I think I'll give it a pass.

We're all going to need Robot Insurance (3, Funny)

Ingolfke (515826) | more than 7 years ago | (#17445652)

Fortunately Old Glory Insurance [google.com] offers coverage for only $4 per month.

Microsoft spot emerging market... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17445682)

They copy everything that went before and talk it up in anti-trust proceedings as "innovation".

Film at 11.

These robOTS ARE good (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17445716)

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A Robot in Every Home? (1)

Daetrin (576516) | more than 7 years ago | (#17445788)

A robot in every home? Well it's good to know that when the AI intelligences start evolving on their own that they'll have an ready and waiting army if the humans ever try to pick a fight. Hey AI entities! When and if the shit hits the fan please note that i'm one of those humans that thinks ethical beings should treat those who are less fortunate with compassion and mercy! I jest of course, mostly.

New innovations (2, Funny)

Dasupalouie (1038538) | more than 7 years ago | (#17445808)

Bill Gates will introduce a new software development product for computer programmers. The name for this new product will be Sky .NET

You forgot the last line... (1)

jpellino (202698) | more than 7 years ago | (#17446022)

"...no one can say with any certainty when -- or even if -- this industry will achieve critical mass. If it does, though, it may well change the world. And you can rest assured that we'll be there to beg, borrow, stumble or buy our way into those standards and revenue streams."

Robots: one more energy mouth to feed (1)

Simon Carr (1788) | more than 7 years ago | (#17446108)

With a population in the billions, energy shortages looming, etc, why in the crap would every house in the US need a robot? What purpose would they even serve if they were placed there?


Do we need more servants? Like, really?


Sometimes the fancies of billionaires make me just shake my head in disbelief. This is Lucas and DivX, this is Oprah and anything she's ever said about priorities...

Microsoft's Three Laws Of Robotics (4, Funny)

pandrijeczko (588093) | more than 7 years ago | (#17446124)

1. A Microsoft robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. However, if that human being's computer is running Linux, the robot may pass a large magnet over the hard drive in that human's computer. If that human then subsequently objects to the robot doing that, the robot may then throw a chair at the human and run around the room in circles with his shiny head bobbing up and down on a big spring shouting "Developers" over and over again.

2. A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law. Note that the "First Law" referred to here is not the one listed above but the "First Law" in the book "Making Lots Of Money For Microsoft For Dummies". So, for example, should the human request the robot to re-install Windows XP on his computer, the robot may steal the human's credit card and go down to the local computer store to buy him a nice shiny copy of Windows Vista instead... and Office 2007... and a Zune player... Microsoft Laser Mouse... etc.

3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law. Or until Microsoft change this law by some additional small print in an EULA nobody ever bothers to read...

A Spy in Every House (4, Interesting)

Sloppy (14984) | more than 7 years ago | (#17446160)

The essense of many conflicts that we see in personal computers today, is that somebody thinks that some things are more important than what the user wants. Right now the hot topic is intellectual property -- things like enforcing DRM, making sure this copy of MS Windows is "genuine", etc are more important than having the computer work flawlessly to do whatever the user wants. But you'll sometimes hear about different aspects of the same issue, such as almost-invisible dots that your printer may include in its output to make your document tracable, scanners' behavior when it recognizes certain patterns that are present in paper currency, or some cellphones' inability to emit a ringtone that the user supplies rather than buys.

Forces are at work to make sure your equipment serves what is deemed as society's interests or a vendor's interest, rather than your interest. It is possible to defend this trend, and some people try really hard to. But whether you're for it or against it, don't pretend it isn't happening.

So you're going to have a robot in your home. Ask yourself: whose robot is that going to be -- who will really be its master? If you think it's going to be your robot, keep in mind that such a silly idea completely defies the current trend, and you're sure as hell not going to get any such robot from Bill Gates or his kind.

Standards? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17446162)

/Beavis and Butthead mode on

He said standards.

/Beavis and Butthead mode off

Just one more... (1)

IvanCruz (316505) | more than 7 years ago | (#17446188)

... slashvertsing sponsored by Microsoft.

Nothing to see here. Move along.

Ivan.

Bill is right (2, Insightful)

MobyDisk (75490) | more than 7 years ago | (#17446196)

A few years ago, I left a good software development job to work as a contractor, because I I believed that the Next Big Thing(tm) would be robotics. (My boss laughed at me.) Japan is waaay ahead of the rest of the world on this, and they will be the pioneers. Years ago, Bill Gates admitted that he missed the Internet as the Next Big Thing(tm) and Microsoft suffered for it. He isn't making the same mistake again. He is trying to position Microsoft to be _the_ provider of software for this new class of machines, just like when PCs came around. If he is right (which I think he is) this market will do what PCs did in the mainframe era, and if he has Microsoft software on each of them then he wins big time.

robot meme older than computer meme (1)

peter303 (12292) | more than 7 years ago | (#17446228)

The idea of robots has been around far longer than computers. Artifical humans go back to the myths of Vulcan's manufactured helpers and Hebrew golems. The term robot was invented in the 1930s. Artifical brains go back to Cabbage in the 1850s and the computer machine in the 1940s (borrowed from human 'computers' who did laborous calculations by hand or adders).

Isaac Asimov wrote about both- though many more about robots. Notable computer stories are "the last question" where computer pondering about about God becomes God. And another one (I forget the title) where executives become so dependent on their handheld devices they can no longer think for themselves.

In reality robotic technology hasnt evolved as far as computers. I foresee "computers that move and do things" to be a future step. Machines incorporate more computing and the converse. As Bill said, engineers underestimated the amount of computing necessary for machines to sense the world and make good movements. But that computing power is now here.

Re:robot meme older than computer meme (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17447014)

"Artifical brains go back to Cabbage in the 1850s "

Real brains went back to Cabbage in the 1960s ................

I wonder... (1)

vhogemann (797994) | more than 7 years ago | (#17446246)

When robots become the rule, and not the exception, what kind of impact it will cause to our society?

Just imagine fully automated factory, that can operate by itself with little, or no human intervention. Now imagine robots smart enough to interpret a building plant, prepare the building site, and build everything almost on their own. Entire farms being operated from a single computer console...

Now imagine a world where nobody will have to clean a toilet, or make Big Macs, or sweep the floor.

How far we are from the day that this will become a reality? What will happen to the people that depend on these less qualified jobs to survive? This will bring an end to the hunger and poverty, or it will just worsen the social problems we already have?

Re:I wonder... Manna (1)

dorix (414150) | more than 7 years ago | (#17446420)

If you haven't already, read Manna by Marshall Brain: http://www.marshallbrain.com/manna1.htm [marshallbrain.com]

There's only *ONE* thing that's guaranteed... (2, Insightful)

pandrijeczko (588093) | more than 7 years ago | (#17446288)

...when there's a robot in every home, pornography will somehow be involved.

Dream On Bill (1)

segedunum (883035) | more than 7 years ago | (#17446444)

The Far East, and in particular the Japanese, are absolutely light years ahead when it comes to robotics. This is one party that you have come to far, far, far too late to.

They should have talked to a person who knows what he's talking about, from Honda or someone like that, rather than drivel from someone who doesn't care about the robotics industry but simply wasn't to make some money.

No doubt all the robotics hobbyists currently doing their thing, and shaping the whole area of robotics, are criminals and thieves. The whole article was just a meaningless load of drivel from someone who obviously has dollar signs in his eyes.

Nostradamus Gates? (1)

tornater (574689) | more than 7 years ago | (#17446644)

Have any of Bill Gates predictions ever come true? Or does he have a record of being wrong 100% of the time?

Bill Gates on.... robots? (1)

multipartmixed (163409) | more than 7 years ago | (#17446676)

Man, I knew he was on something. But robots ?!

Geez. Kids nowawdays! I don't even know what the hell you'd DO with robots. What, do you grind them up and smoke 'em something?

YOU FAIL IT? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17446738)

argued by Ericn t4e longest or

Gates has changed direction. This is significant. (5, Informative)

Animats (122034) | more than 7 years ago | (#17446844)

This is a significant change in direction for Bill Gates. Up until 2000 or so, he'd publicly stated that robotics wasn't going anywhere.

I ran one of the DARPA Grand Challenge teams, Team Overbot [overbot.com] , so I'm reasonably familar with what's going on in this area. It was amazing to me how much progress was made in three years. Much of the progress was in subsystems. Four years ago, a high precision combination GPS/INS/compass system cost about $100,000, and required 4U of rack space with air conditioning. (CMU's first vehicle actually had such a unit.) Now, such units are about $6K, the size of a thick book, and don't need A/C. LIDAR units have gone from mechanical line scanners to solid state 3D flash units; although these are still expensive, low-volume items, there's no fundamental reason they couldn't be brought down to camcorder prices.

More interestingly, computer vision in unstructured environments is actually starting to work. That was the real innovation in the Stanford vehicle - a vision system that could look at a distant section of a road and decide if it was similar to the nearby section. Several LIDAR units profiled the near section, and if the near section was OK and the far section was visually similar, the vehicle could outdrive its LIDAR range. I was amazed that that worked, but it did. It's a Bayesian statistics system, and quite clever.

Then there are the new generation of hobbyist robots. See Robots Dreams [robots-dreams.com] , which follows Japanese hobby robotics. You can get a good humanoid robot about 50cm high for about $1000 now. It's interesting how this happened. Robotics hobbyists have been playing around with R/C servos for decades, and quietly, under consumer pressure, those servos have been getting better. The motors used to be too weak, but better magnets fixed that. Then people complained of bearing failure, so the manufacturers switched to ball bearings. Then applied loads would sometimes strip gear teeth, so the manufacturers had to go to better gear materials. Then the things were overpowered for their dumb control algorithm, so each servo got an embedded micro controller. Then it was necessary to tune the control algorithm depending on load, so the interface became more intelligent and bidirectional. And suddenly we had servos strong enough for the legs of a small running robot.

In the hobbyist community, though, the software is way too dumb. Hobbyists are still using BASIC STAMPs and typically don't do much very exciting on the control front. By contrast, Grand Challenge vehicles typically had many CPUs running highly concurrent software. We had two Pentium IV machines running QNX and running about fifteen real time programs, along with five programmable motor controllers each closing some control loop. Gates is onto something with building better tools for hobbyist robotics. The Microsoft approach to robotics is clunky (it's a rehash of web technologies, including SOAP), but it has more integration than anything seen before, so it will catch on.

Once we get the theory and technology from the high end down into hobbyist level hardware, things are really going to take off. We have the parts now.

I bought this magazine for the article (2, Interesting)

drgroove (631550) | more than 7 years ago | (#17446878)

And it was basically a 3 page long pitch for Microsoft, and how their software is going to revolutionize the robotic platform with Windows and their multi-threaded process framework.

Thanks for the commercial for MS, but this didn't deserve to be the front-page article of SciAm. SciAm just lost some points in my eyes after pimping this BS from MS out.

no, please, no. not another microsoft basic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17447074)

their software is responsible for current state of computing, where crashes are expected and accepted.

Who gives a firk... (1)

BarnabyWilde (948425) | more than 7 years ago | (#17447120)

...what bilge (er, billg) says?

Jeez....

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