What is even more exciting — well, at least to me — is that the road to this robotic future is littered with billions of smartphones. The reason why we can build robots like Baxter today is because of the falling prices of sensors and other components. Before the iPhone rolled around, phones didn’t use that many chips. Apple came along and made it normal to demand pyrometers, accelerometers, digital cameras, touch and other such sensors.
The growing number of smartphones — a billion shipped by 2016 — has helped the cost of making these sensors and mobile processors decline at a dramatic rate. The chips insider are getting beefier and more capable. It is Moore’s law at work, only at gigantic scale, as my colleague Kevin Tofel wrote last year. Baxter uses nine ARM-cortex chips that are made by Texas Instruments to work and they are all getting cheaper because of the cellphones.