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Is a Cambrian Explosion Coming For Robotics?


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Artist's conception of a Cambrian Explosion of robotics.

Former U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency program manager Gill A. Pratt suggests a "Cambrian Explosion" of robotics is imminent.

Credit: IEEE Spectrum

New technological developments have begun to accumulate that are fomenting an explosion in the diversity and application of robotics, prompting former U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) program manager Gill A. Pratt to suggest a "Cambrian Explosion" of robotics is coming.

Pratt was referring to a period in the early history of life on Earth in which the number and variety of animal species dramatically increased over a short time.

Pratt says several trends are feeding the potential for explosive growth in robotics, including exponential growth in computing performance and data storage, the growing ubiquity of wireless communications infrastructure, faster Internet speeds, the advent of three-dimensional printing, and improvements in both electrical energy storage and the energy efficiency of electronics.

Pratt also points to the rise of deep-learning algorithms and the concept of cloud robotics, in which every robot learns from the experiences of every other robot, as major drivers of growth in the realm of robotics as they accelerate and simplify the process of robots acquiring new skills and capabilities.

However, he says it is very difficult to predict when, or if, a Cambrian Explosion of robotics might occur, and what effects it would have on society and the economy.

From IEEE Spectrum
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