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July 16, 2014

What We're Learning From Jimmy The Robot

Posted by Dr. Srinivas Padmanabhuni (View Profile | View All Posts) at 6:52 AM


Robot Has New 'Applications' for Technology [Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6i-gRmlvI8I]

One square inch. That's the size of the circuit board that powers a marvelous new device called Electric Imp.

Electric Imp - it's small and cheap (about US$30) and hooks into its own Cloud. The Imp connects to the Cloud via a wireless network router. A hobbyist or someone wanting to start a small business can use this product to connect whatever devices he wants to the Internet and control them accordingly. Is it any wonder that the Imp's creator used to work on the iPhone? He was trying to find a better way to formulate a Cloud-based system that would allow him to turn the lights on and off in his home when he invented this small Wi-Fi card.

What's fascinating about the story of the Electric Imp, is the democratization of technology.

Another testament to this democratization is Jimmy. Jimmy's not a real person - he's a robot. But he's a product of the Intel Corp., which plans to sell Jimmy later this year. Recently, in New York City, Intel put Jimmy on display and it reminded me once again of how promising and powerful the Internet of Things (IoT) will become.

An Intel employee at the company's Future Showcase 2014 said that robots will someday become as commonplace as the Internet. The reason, I think, is that the Internet will run robots. As the Internet of Everything allows us to connect to everything from our climate control systems to household appliances, we'll look at robotics differently than we have in the past. Because people can make robots with 3D printers, they're going to become more accessible and part of the IoT story as it plays out. I might want to build a robot that takes commands remotely and fetches my slippers. You might want one that turns on the lights before you enter a room. Whatever the intended task, you design the machine to perform those tasks as optimally as possible and then simply attach them to an Intel-provided skeleton.

IoT is essentially breaking down the barriers between robotics and the manufacturing of household appliances. Because of an Internet connection to a Cloud, data goes out but it also comes in. Any device becomes smart from such a connection. It learns how to operate - dare I say "behave" - based on the data it receives back from the Cloud. Given the right schematics and design, I have no doubt that consumers will be creating their own walking coffee makers. Imagine having your first cup of the day delivered to you at bedside by a robot whose arms and legs you created off a 3D printer.

We can learn a lot from Jimmy. Cloud-connected hardware is going to transform the world quicker than we think. And the interest in connected appliances like Jimmy is going to create tremendous consumer demand to which technology enterprises should be catering. If the average consumer can create and operate a robot that performs menial tasks, then the large organization will be able to engineer vast solutions and systems that will streamline the business world.

While we are really looking at this exciting new world of IoT with cloud connected hardware, due consideration is also being paid to critical issues of privacy, and information protection, a key consideration which needs to be simultaneously looked alongside the myriad possibilities of this technology.

Over all it is exciting enough to conjecture that we're only at the beginning of this industrial transformation.

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