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Friday, February 20, 2009

US Robot Vision 2025

A report from The National Intelligence Council, NIC, titled "Global Trends 2025: A Transformed World" describes military, economic and environmental challenges the U.S. will face over the next 17 years. The report also looks at technologies, and it includes some sweeping ideas about the future of robotics.

According to NIC robotics technology will be far enough along to take over low-skilled jobs in 2025. Robots can take over elderly care tasks and may be used to augment human capabilities. NIC foresees the possible development of wearable humanoid robots, so called exoskeletons, that uses sensors, interfaces, power systems and actuators to monitor and respond to arm and leg movements, providing the wearer with increased strength and control. There will also be wearable devices that can help improve vision, hearing and memory.

Robots have the potential to replace humans in a variety of applications with far-reaching implications. Robotics and enabling technologies have already advanced to the stage where single-application robots and related systems (including autonomous vehicles) are being implemented in a wide range of civil and defense applications. Although a great deal of development is still required in terms of intelligence for robots, many of the building blocks for potentially disruptive robot systems are either already in place, or will be by 2025, including hardware (e.g. sensors, actuators, and power systems) and software (e.g. robot platforms).

Defense Robots
The use of unmanned systems for terrorist activities could emerge because the availability of commercial civil robot platforms will increase significantly. Unmanned military systems with a much greater level of autonomy and closely related/synergistic technologies (e.g. human augmentation systems) could enhance the performance of soldiers.

Caring Robots
The development and implementation of robots for elder-care applications, and the development of human-augmentation technologies, mean that robots could be working alongside humans in looking after and rehabilitating people. A change in domestic and social responsibilities and a change in domestic employment requirements could adversely affect lower income service-oriented workers.

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