John Chamberlain
Developer Diary
 Developer Diary · You Heard It Here First · 26 November 2003
Robotics Goes Mainstream
Until now robotics has been the private playground of a small collection of academics and industry insiders with a lot of time on their hands and deep pockets. Modularization and technology growth is changing that. It is now possible for average hobbyists to put together robots much more easily than a few years ago. This will have a lot of important impacts. It means that innovation and product development will greatly increase. I predict that the number of robotics startups will mushroom in the next few years. This will be great for the economy.

One symptom of the mainstreamning of robotics is the appearance of a popular magazine devoted to robotics called Servo. I got my first issue just the other day. It is a good-quality magazine. They have a feature on Robosaurus. One of the benchmarks I looked at in evaluating the extent to which robotics is becoming more accessible was to check the ads. Are robotics suppliers becoming more componentized? Here are the robotics-specific ads in the magazine:

- Sixteen Oz (antweight combat bot parts)
- NPC Robotics (power drives and wheels)
- CCS (robotic kit)
- Pololu (robotic kits, servos and controllers, custom laser cutting)
- Plantraco (a wireless command system)
- Lynx Motion (kits)
- Pico Bytes (controllers)
- microEngineering Labs (PIC micro development tools)
- The Machine Lab (complete mobile platforms)
- Budget Robotics (small platforms)
- Solarbotics (complete mini-sumos)
- Zagros (general supplier)
- New Micros (motion control system)
- Parallax (BASIC stamp minibot kits)

There were also more generalized ads for stuff you will find in electronics magazines and a couple of machine shop/tool ads like one for Sherline. Overall there where some things I would still like to see like a supplier who specialized in sensors and more suppliers for drives and mechanical components, but in general there was more than enough here to really get going with robots without spending an entire summer doing it.

I think this augurs the beginning of a new age--the Age of Robotics.

Developer Diary · · bio · Revised 26 November 2003 · Pure Content