More examples of Moore's Law

Many examples of Moore's Law this week:The last one is interesting. It echoes the "workstation boom" in the 1980s, when players like Sun, Apollo, DEC, IBM, etc. battled it out for the scientific desktop with UNIX workstations.

This machine is not quite as impressive as it sounds at first. According to this page, an Efficeon is only about one-quarter as fast as a Pentium. So this machine might "only" be as powerful as a 20- or 25-Pentium workstation. The reason for using the Efficeon, despite its relative slowness, is its low wattage per calculation. If you put 25 Pentiums in a box, they would consume 3,000 or 4,000 watts -- it would blast you out of your office with the heat, and you would need to run a special 30-amp circuit to plug it in. For comparison, a typical electric clothes dryer uses 4,000 watts. By using Efficeon chips, at 8 watts per chip, the whole machine uses "only" as much power as a blow drier.

The thing that is interesting about this machine is the amount of horsepower it makes available in an "off-the-shelf" package. If history repeats itself, then in ten years this is the horsepower that a "normal" $500 desktop machine will have available. Along with many terabytes of storage space.

See Robotic Nation for details.



Robotic mobility

This is a good example of the unusual forms robots can take in the future:

GM Mobility - Sit-N-Lift

From the article:Imagine hospital beds that automatically load, roll and bathe patients. Imagine sofas and chairs that rearrange themselves, come when you call them and that move themselves for easy cleaning. And so on.



Gakken crab-bot

Build your own Gakken crab-bot - Engadget - www.engadget.com


Robots and jobs

Rise in offshoring breeds job insecurity among U.S. workers

From the article:This is exactly the point of Robotic Nation.

If this transition happened slowly, that would be one thing. The problem is that the transition is going to happen very quickly -- much faster than we've seen before. That speed will cause a great deal of turmoil.

People will try to transition to "health care and education", but then those fields will be automated as well. See for example:Every aspect of our economy will be automating simultaneously. Retail stores will be eliminating millions of employees. The tranportation sector will be turning to robotic cars, trucks and planes. And so on. See Robots taking jobs for a fascinating list.

See Robotic Nation for details. See yesterday's census numbers for statistical evidence of the trend.



Robotic insects at war

Australian scientists turn to insect swarms for new generation weapons

From the article:It is easy to imagine a number of scenarios:



Robots in Japan

Land of the rising robot

From the article:Also:



Humanoid combat robots in Japan

Combat robots wow crowds

From the article:Also:The article links to two videos, including this one (3.90MB MPG) and this one (3.48MB MPG). See also Robotic Security.


NASA robot rides a Segway

NASA engineers refine Robonaut

From the article:See also Robots and NASA and Robotic repair.



Smallest robotic helicopter

Mini helicopter unveiled in Japan

From the article:



Interplanetary robots

NASA Develops Robust AI For Planetary Rovers

From the article:



Tomato-picking robots

Ohio State University develops robotic tomato harvester for the J.F. Kennedy Space Center

Further research in robotic farming is being helped by NASA of all people. According to the article:Also:There are plans to expand the research into other fruit crops like apples and oranges.

See also:



Robots and guns

The company called Metal Storm creates guns that can fire bullets at rates "in excess of one million rounds per minute". It is probably safe to say that a gun that can shoot a million rounds a minute is fairly lethal. So the obvious thing to do is to give such a gun to a robot, as demonstrated in this video collection:

Metal Storm - Video - Latest Releases

See also: Successful X-45 robotic bomber



The Coming Robot Revolution

The Coming Robot Revolution

From the article:



Olympic security

CNN.com - Olympics' digital security unprecedented

From the article:Also:This is an extremely good example of a Robotic Bubble. As we create humanoid robotic guards and armed robotic security forces these bubbles will get bigger and much tighter.

The bubble around Washington is being noted in articles like these:It is very easy to imagine the day when you cannot enter any American city unless you have permission to do so. They will all be protected by bubbles.

See also Robotic Surveillance and Manna for details.



What robotic memory will look like in 10 years

Taiwan firms to launch 2TB memory card

From the article:It is very rare today to find a personal computer with one terabyte of disk space. If it has it, it is made up of 4 to 10 drives and has an access rate of 30 or 40 MB/sec. The drive array takes up a cubic foot or more of space, consumes lots of electricity, generates lots of heat and weighs 20 pounds.

In 10 years, robots will be running around with two terabytes of memory that is 4 times faster, uses no power to speak of and fills a cubic centimeter of space. That's the effect of Moore's Law. See also:Another example of the same trend: Holographic discs look like DVDs but hold a terabyte of information. Today.



Robotic assembly

Popular Science | A Limber Future

The article notes:



Kids and multi-tasking

The screen-age: Our brains in our laptops

From the article:This goes back to the post entitled Robots and teachers, and helps explain why "traditional education" using a human lecturer standing at a whiteboard simply will not last that much longer. It it too boring, too slow...



Keeping up with Moore's Law

I gave a talk to a group of robotics folks on Monday night, and one of the concerns that came up in the Q&A session afterwards was that Moore's Law will somehow "run out of steam." Two of the problems that people brought up included, a) the ever-shrinking size of transistors cannot continue forever, and b) increasing power consumption cannot continue forever. One point made is that current supercomputers (the kind with 10,000 Pentium chips running in parallel) can consume 10 to 20 megawatts of power. Certainly a robot cannot consume 20 megawatts.

I understand both points, but I think they are both irrelevant. First, we KNOW it is possible to produce a high-performance, low power CPU. Each one of us has a brain that performs something on the order of one quadrillion operations per second, yet it consumes only 20 watts.

Second, Scientists and engineers make discoveries all the time, and things simply get faster and faster. 20 years ago a Cray computer ran so hot that the entire computer (as big as a refrigerator) was immersed in liquid FC-77 to extract the prodigious amounts of heat it created. Today you can get that same power in a little desktop computer cooled with a small fan. That's normal progress, and there's nothing going to stop that sort of progress.

Here are two articles that show current trends in making computers faster and more efficient:

Sun chips away at wireless chip connections

From the article:Also:If you take out the cache -- representing millions of transistors -- you can use those transistors for something else. See this page for some thoughts.

This article talks about a whole new paradigm for computing:

Nanotech leads way to quantum computing

From the article:One point I made in my talk and in my article discussed how quickly airplanes advanced between 1903 and 1954:That is the kind of progress we will continue to see in computing power over the next 50 years. We will see progress in transitor size and power consumption, packaging, etc. We will also see completely new paradigms arise. What these developments mean is a dramatic increase in robotic intelligence over the next several decades, along with dramatic changes in the world economy.

See also:



Robotic Spacecraft

Europe has a new spacecraft to ferry supplies up to the International Space Station. It is just about ready for its maiden flight, and it is completely robotic -- it has no accomodations for human pilots or passengers, and burns up on re-entry so it has no use as a "life boat" either.

Europe Creates its Own Space Vehicle

From the article:By eliminating humans from the system, the design and manufacturing process is highly simplified -- no life support; no extra weight and space for chairs, controls, displays; no need to worry about re-entry; No "escape hatches"; etc.

See also Robots and Nasa and Robotic repair call to Hubble taking shape.



Cars that express emotion

If this takes off, it his will be a very short-lived phenomenon:

A car that winks, laughs and cries

From the article:The reason it will be short-lived is because, within 15 years or so, cars will all be driving themselves and communicating with each other and a central data center continuously. There will be no need for something as primitive and silly as tears. The cars will be sharing reams of data at the speed of light.

See also: Robot drivers.

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