For the last several years robots have been steadily advancing from glorified radio controlled devices to fully autonomous machines. They have evolved from mechanical windup robots that could preform special tasks such as the Mechanical Turk. Which was an 18th century fake chess-playing machine. To autonomous U.A.V.s (unmanned aerial vehicles) that are fighting our wars in other countries.
Robots have also appeared in popular science fiction, for example there is Lost in Space's Robby the Robot, the Terminator T-800 played by Arnold Schwarzenegger. There were also living societies of robots such as the Autobots and Decepticons.
Fast forward back to reality, today we have fully autonomous domestic robots such as the iRobot Roomba that can clean our floors, to self driving vehicles such as Google's driver-less car.
The military has been funding a great deal of advances in autonomous robots, for example several advances in self driving cars came out of DARPA's Grand and Urban Challenges. To the several variations of the Predator U.A.V. that are being developed for different military applications from surveillance to killing.
In the last few years we have been seeing a trickle down effect from these military U.A.V.s technologies to local governments which are using them for public surveillance. To universities and general public finding all sorts of new applications for these devices (from toys, specialized photography, and more. All while the cost of building the main computer and software have dropped dramatically from millions, thousands to hundreds.
In fact the hardware and software are open source. For example, there is ROS (Robot Operating System) which provides libraries and tools to help software developers create robot applications. It provides hardware abstraction, device drivers, libraries, visualizers, message-passing, package management, and more. ROS is licensed under an open source, BSD license.
Robots are even forcing to change our laws and civilian rights, such as Google's driver-less car caused Nevada to add laws for this type of vehicle. To issues with privacy such as quadcopters with cameras gives anyone access to view in to places they might not of had access to before.
Below are several video that demonstrate and talk about the technical and social aspects of the future of robots.
P. W. Singer on Wired for War: Robotics and 21st Century Conflict
P. W. Singer: Wired for War from Australian Broadcasting Corporation and Australian Broadcasting Corporation on FORA.tv
In his lab at Penn, Vijay Kumar and his team build flying quadrotors, small, agile robots that swarm, sense each other, and form ad hoc teams -- for construction, surveying disasters and far more.
Fora.TV: Chris Anderson: Making Drones at a Fraction of the Price:
Learn how to create a flying robot with an open source Arduino-compatible flight controller. This talk will cover basic autonomous flight, as well as using advanced sensors for navigation and mission planning. We'll focus on quadcopters and hexacopters, but also include autonomous planes and rovers.