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12/14/2006
04:17 PM
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Reckoning On Robots

Robots have always fascinated me: From Robby the Robot (who starred in the classic science fiction film Forbidden Planet), to the inhuman but highly effective mechanisms that build our automobiles, to the current crop of scientific toys that are available for hobbyists and experimenters. In fact, I actually wrote a book about robots back in 1982 titled Robots: Reel to R

Robots have always fascinated me: From Robby the Robot (who starred in the classic science fiction film Forbidden Planet), to the inhuman but highly effective mechanisms that build our automobiles, to the current crop of scientific toys that are available for hobbyists and experimenters. In fact, I actually wrote a book about robots back in 1982 titled Robots: Reel to Real -- a book now so out of date that I'm embarrassed when I see it sitting on a library shelf.That's why I'm always interested in news items such as Microsoft Launches Its First Robotics Toolkit. According to the article, the toolkit, called Microsoft Robotics Studio, is a Windows-based development environment for building software for a variety of platforms. It's a free software package that lets developers program their robotic creations more easily.

Whenever I see something like that, I think of all the enthusiasts who have spent countless hours building and programming mechanisms that climb stairs, or respond to voice commands, or negotiate a maze, or dance, or do a number of other interesting tasks. Do a search on "robot" in YouTube's Science & Technology category and you'll find some interesting videos of robotic feats.

In fact, there are a vast number of robotic toys, kits, and equipment available out there -- some of which are accessible even to those of us who don't have the programming or building skills to create our own from scratch. In this year's Ultimate Holiday Gift Guide alone, there were three robotic gift suggestions: the ThinkGeek USB Snowbot (which is essentially a snazzy-looking toy), the Nabaztag (an electronic rabbit which serves as a fun PC add-on), and the programmable 914 PC-BOT.

Robotics is actually a serious science that is developed by industry, at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and in a multitude of labs around the world. But because robots offer a melding of human and electronic brain and brawn (not necessarily in that order), it is a subject that remains fascinating.

Are you interested in robots? Have you ever built one? Or do you simply like watching them on the silver screen? Let us know.

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