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Will 2017 be the year we finally get our Jarvis-style robotic butlers?

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John Nelson

Ten years ago, I was in the early stages of the PhD programme in robotics at Carnegie Mellon University.

The potential of these technologies was incredible, but up to that point, the focus had been overwhelmingly on applications in areas such as defence, space, manufacturing or pure research.

Then, top autonomous driving research was funded almost exclusively by Darpa and other government agencies, and although large-scale autonomous cars have always been one of the dreams of robotics researchers, we would have all been shocked to see what is happening today: dozens of the biggest companies in the world led by a search-engine company , as well as highly funded startups, are collectively investing billions of dollars at the pursuit of the commercial autonomous car.

Now there is a sense of inevitability to autonomous cars being a staple of our daily lives within a decade or sooner , with the only questions being the pace at which they will take over, and which of the companies chasing this prize will pull away from the pack.

These developments in transportation are a great template for how robotics can disrupt even the most entrenched industries, and highlights a few themes that we will begin to see more frequently:

• Incumbents will rarely be the ones that disrupt their own spaces.

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John Nelson
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