In the 1940's and 50's Isaac Asimov wrote a series of short stories about robots and in the process created the The Three Laws of Robotics.  In all these stories the robots were controlled by a Positronic Brain which was hardwired with all the programs the robot would ever need.  Why a "Positronic Brain" and not simply a "computer?"  Because at that time computers were so large and expensive there was no way to fit them inside a humanoid robot.

Despite this, a handful of designers, engineers and entrepreneurs started developing the sensors, mechanisms, actuators and tools needed to turn robots from fiction into fact.  All they were waiting for was for the computers to become small enough, powerful enough and cheap enough to power their inventions.  When this point was reached they were ready to step in and revolutionise production lines around the world.

By KUKA Roboter GmbH, Bachmann [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By KUKA Roboter GmbH, Bachmann [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

At the Physical Package Protocol project we believe that we are presently in the opposite position; computers are more than powerful enough to run the system but we are waiting for robotics technology to catch up.  And the following trends show us that this will come earlier than most people think:

Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO, introduces Amazon Prime Air on “60 Minutes” (image via CBS)

Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO, introduces Amazon Prime Air on “60 Minutes” (image via CBS)

  • Sensor packages originally developed for mobile phones reducing in size, weight and price.
  • Electropermanent magnetic grabbers are being refined for weight and strength.
  • Mapping technologies and Simultaneous Location and Mapping (SLaM) increasing in precision. 
  • huge worldwide hobbyist community developing autonomous aerial platforms.
  • International technology and automotive companies investing significant resources in robotic vehicles.

Drone based deliveries have already taken place.  A multi copter has lifted a human.  Robot cars are driving on our roads.  How long until we treat packages like data packets and let them find the best route to their destination?

Top Photo CC 2.0: Toy Robot Jonathan McIntosh