MIT’s Rodney Brooks outlines his vision of the future to student entrepreneurs.
By David L. Chandler
MIT News Office
April 24, 2012 - When industrial robots were first introduced in the early 1960s — initially on automobile assembly lines — computers were still in their infancy, so the robots were designed to perform only the most rigidly predetermined set of repetitive movements.
Despite a half-century of exponential growth in computational power, that’s pretty much still the state of industrial robotics.
But according to Rodney Brooks, who last year left a tenured position as MIT’s Panasonic Professor of Robotics to focus on his latest company, that may not be true for much longer.
Brooks’s “lips are sealed,” as The Economist put it last week, about what exactly he and Heartland Robotics are up to in a converted warehouse in South Boston’s Innovation District. But venture capitalists have already gambled $32 million on the premise that whatever it is they produce, it’s going to set a whole new direction in the field.
Brooks, now the chairman and chief technology officer of Heartland Robotics, spoke at MIT on April 20, addressing a recently formed student entrepreneurship group called do.it@MIT.
In robotics, “today’s technology is going to look so incredibly primitive in a couple of decades,” Brooks told a crowd of about 400, mostly students, gathered at MIT’s Kresge Auditorium. And, he added, “you’re the ones who are going to invent” the new robotic technologies that will transform the field.
Robots down under
The former director of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) described growing up in in Adelaide, Australia. While he had never heard of MIT, he was an inveterate tinkerer who became intrigued early on by robotics.
In the early 1960s, Brooks recalled, he built(more...)