I believe I’m on record, musing at one point during a networking event that [high tech] “isn’t for me.” I loved my RAZR phone, and despite expert opinions, the Palm Pilot renaissance is imminent. Fast forward a year later, and I’m writing this article on my sofa so the Roomba can get under my feet while Alexa dutifully cranks up the second act of Metallica’s “The Unforgiven” trilogy.
This integration of machine learning in our daily routines was inevitable; as robotics hardware pricing has steadily declined while inversely, the intuitive and practical capabilities of robotics software has increased. The accessibility and ubiquity of these technologies highlights a gradual, yet undeniable, divergence from its military and industrial-exclusive past and has now proven to be highly valuable in its commoditization.
The Right Piece at the Right Time
How was this moment in technology made possible? As the hefty price tags continually lower for the necessary hardware to execute sophisticated programs, we’re seeing robots leverage commodity hardware. Commodity hardware refers to the inexpensive, accessible, and compatible nature of a device.
Why is this important? Consider Tomahawk’s Mimic controller – weighing in at less than half a pound - this intuitive hand-held controller represents a benchmark in UAS/UGB/UxV control solutions. Adhering to ROS standards, Mimic ensures speed and precision in its configuration and communication to other systems without sacrificing use-case flexibility. As hardware like Mimic become more affordable, ROS-friendly and mission-optimal, we will continue to see innovative user interfaces for robotic systems become more commonplace.
The Rise of Smarter Machines
The increase in affordability and flexibility of robot hardware is how I’m on my third listen to “The Unforgiven III”, for the fourth time today, without having pressed one button. As highly capable and sophisticated software continues to find niches in commodity hardware, in this case, machine learning on portable devices, the market will continue to produce technologies that seamlessly integrate into our daily lives. PEW reported that 72% of surveyed adults are concerned about the emergence of automation. The reality is that pairing valuable software with commodity hardware will yield advancements in our daily lives.
The commoditization of robot hardware is evident in nearly the whole of the robot anatomy. Prices have fallen by over 90% for perception sensors (i.e. Lidar) which equip the robot to gauge and assess its surroundings. According to Waymo CEO John Krafcik,
"Just a few years ago, a single [Lidar] cost upwards of $75,000. Today, we've brought down that cost by more than 90%…As we look to scale, we will do even better, with the goal of making this technology accessible to millions of people.”
Consequently, BCC (Business Communications Company) analysts predict that the global demand for robotic sensors will reach $840 million by 2022. As pricing becomes more competitive for key robotic hardware, this era of robot computing will be characterized by industrial-grade components that are affordable and deployable by a much wider base.
Such is the case with technologies like Mimic. Due to the accessible and flexible nature of commodity hardware, more and more companies can leverage advanced robotic controller technology to meet growing needs within diverse industries. Compatible with other systems, chiefly – with Kinesis Enterprise & Kinesis Mobile, Mimic embodies the portability and sophistication that advanced software and commodity hardware has to offer.