To walk the halls at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas is to be bombarded by the most cloying vision of the future. Robots that dance in sequence! Segway inspired suitcases that walk behind harried travelers! Virtual reality goggles that show tiny imaginary battles over geodoes! Amidst the audio-visual assault of the show floor, there was a trend in consumer robotics that I think is worth following: underwater robots are here, and plentiful, and will likely only get better and cheaper in the years to come.
Some of the advancement in underwater robotics will be custom-built for military clients, like the Boeing Echo Seeker. Other sea robots will likely have dual-use bodies, like whatever underwater scout comes from the early tests of the MantaDroid that I wrote about in a prior piece.
Undoubtedly, the cutting edge of underwater robotics will remain in the hands of nations with the money to pour into such projects. But what about the good-enough robots, the machines that may not be built to military specifications, but can do the job in a pinch? Those are the machines I saw at CES last week.