Motherboard has a great article about Agility Robotics‘ Cassie. Cassie is a bipedal robot that’s currently available for purchase, but all it can do is walk around. Which leads Jordan Pearson to make this point:
A pair of working robot legs is great, but they won’t deliver a package containing your new pair of headphones on their own. For that, you need arms and eyes.
A robot pair of legs, while cool, isn’t going to take over the world. Autonomous systems like this are going to change things even more than the PC or the smart phone, and to succeed I think AR needs to get some inspiration from the PC industry: Standard connectors.
Standards are great
One thing that enabled the expansion of personal computers was creating standard connectors for peripherals. This allowed people to hook up all kinds of devices to their PCs, from scanners to cameras to hard drives to missile launchers. This increased the utility of PCs. It also meant that if your PC died or you wanted to buy a new one there was a pretty good chance you wouldn’t waste your investment in peripherals, and you could upgrade to new peripherals for a fraction of a cost of a new PC.
What this has to do with Cassie
Cassie is the equivalent of a really great peripheral. It’s good at one thing – walking – but without being able to do more it’s not much of a robot. Now imagine if there was a socket on top where you could put different attachments. Say a cargo pod with a camera that’s programmed to follow you around, like some drones are able to do now. You’d have your own personal shopping companion.
Potential ideas for attachments go far beyond cargo. Different arms, sensory, and navigation could be added to expand Cassie’s capabilities. And by opening up the platform to development they’ll allow other companies to build attachments. Amazon could build specialized picking/packing arms that could also work with their Kiva robots. Black and Decker could make a line of yard care tools that work with Cassie, allowing it to do everything from rake leaves to clean gutters to mop your floors.
Agility Robotics has a similar advantage to what Apple had back in the early 80s. They were the first to get into a massive market with a great product. Opening their platform to expansion would offload the work of all the other systems to other companies, so they can focus on making really great legs.