I read an item on the Smart Planet blog this week and it made for interesting reading.
It’s about a young guy called David Luan, a child prodigy, college at the age of eight, working at iRobot Corporation – the makers of the Roomba – in his teens, and now a high flyer at Yale.
Genius is a term that gets bandied around a lot, but David could legitimately fit the bill. He’s taken a sabbatical from the Ivy League college to try to develop an idea. And as you would come to expect from someone worthy of the genius tag – the idea is both simple and brilliant.
David realised that when we buy a robot – like the Roomba, or the Robomow for lawns – it’s programmed to do one task. Vacuum the house, cut the lawn, wash the floor.
He asked himself a question: Why can’t they do more? Afterall if you want to promote the use of robots, encourage people to buy them, surely the more robots can do, the more likely you are to achieve a sale.
His solution is to try to create a robotic app store. Want your robot mower to create areas for planting? Fine, download it from the robo-app store.
He also outlines his idea that additional hardware could be created to extend a robot’s functionality. These – quite literal bolt-ons – could be created within the developer community. Think of the Glif iPhone accessory to get some idea of how it might work.
David’s vision encompasses eventually being able to teach the robots to learn for themselves. That might be a little far off but the initial idea has merits.
- There is an active community of robotics enthusiasts who would be prepared to develop for the service. Look at the number of hacks that already exist for the Roomba for example.
- Some of these hobbyists might be prepared to work for free on an open source model, but a fair and equitable revenue share might also provide an incentive.
- Researchers are already involved in creating a ‘universal language’ to allow robots to talk to each other. A common language will be important if an app can be downloaded for any mainstream consumer robot.
- Creating hardware also creates a new commercial model for robot peripheries
Automaton ran a blog post a few months ago entitled Robots are the next revolution why isn’t anyone acting like it?
Perhaps someone has started to take notice. I watch this space with interest.