Robot population to more than double by 2011

Robot population to more than double by 2011

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SALT LAKE CITY -- It's estimated that in 2007, there were 6.7 million robots operating around the world. By 2011, that number could more than double.

"There's a lot of devices being invented as we speak that are out there to help us," said Mark Minor, associate professor of mechanical engineering, and co-director for the robotics track at the University of Utah.

He says cars are one example. "We're going to see a lot more vehicles that will essentially become robotic," he said.

Those backing-up sensors and steering to prevent rollovers are all robots. "The vehicles will become robots that will take over the driving for us," Minor said.

Then there are military vehicles, drones, and security robots used by bomb squads.

"A third of all military vehicles by 2015 have to be capable of unmanned or autonomous operation, which means they really are going to be big robots," Minor said.

Robots are popping up in the medical field, too.

"We're also seeing a lot more robotic type devices in rehabilitation," Minor said. "You can help people recover from spinal cord injury if you help their body, their legs, their limbs actually go through the gates again. It helps encourage the nerves to reconnect and they can learn to walk again."

Minor says the future of robots could be in your house or yard. There's the Roomba robot right now that vacuums, but there's more.

"Imagine if a robot could be more intelligent, to go through and pick up your kids' toys," Minor said. "Wouldn't it be great if we had an automatic snow blower like the lawnmower?"

The World Robotics Organization reports about 115,000 new robots go to work every year in factories. Automobile plants are the largest buyers.

The WRO expects the next decade will lean heavily on the vacuum cleaners and toys.


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