Robotic technology has improved dramatically in the past decade, and applications are getting more exciting as well. Robots are cool again, and for engineers, designing the new generation of robots is one of the most exciting types of projects. While the prior generations stunned the world by sending men to the moon in the 1960s, this generation will soon make a robot dance better than Michael Jackson.
Popularity of youth competitions have grown in the past few years, including the high-school FIRST Robotics (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) contest and the FIRST Lego League for younger children.
Nowadays, every toy store in the industrialized world is crammed with computer-controlled toys that would have been labelled as state-of-the-art robots only 20 years ago. The quirky Roomba autonomous vacuum cleaner was launched as the world's first robotic household cleaning device. Although its capabilities as an effective vacuum cleaner are debated, its introduction has resulted in the development of derivative products that provide accessible platforms for learning and exploring real robotics techniques.
Beneath all of this is a whole new generation of engineering and scientific techniques that empower and fuel the rapid pace of innovation within the modern robotics community. In the end, what was once the stuff of science fiction seems to be within reach for the engineering community.