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Latest Best of NY

Nina In New York: Like All Great Things, The Future Of Robotics Begins In The Kitchen

(Credit: Clipart)

(Credit: Clipart)

A lighthearted look at news, events, culture and everyday life in New York. The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.
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By Nina Pajak

Over the last half a century or so, our society has seen incredible progress and change on the technology front. The world looks a far sight different than it did in the days when scientists, children and Hollywood dreamed of flying cars, robot butlers, colonies on the moon, video telephones, teleportation, and drinkable sunscreen.

(Check, half-check and check on those last three.)

We’ve come a long way from those naive days. Except that somehow, our visions haven’t been altered all that much. We still dream of flying cars, robot butlers, and space colonization (what, you think that Mars Rover isn’t also scouting for future luxury subdivisions?). We’ve dreamed even bigger, and we’ve achieved a lot, but we have yet to clear the bar of “futuristic living” set by those visionaries behind “The Jetsons.”

You ruined us, Hanna-Barbera. Nothing can ever live up to the wonderful inanity you cooked up. I don’t care miracles what Neil deGrasse Tyson has to show us from his “spaceship of the imagination” through the cosmos. None of it will ever prove that our caveman ancestors ate Brontosaurus burgers and used a woolly mammoth as a shower hose. And until we head to work in floating office buildings in the sky via little personal spaceships, we will not have reached the future by my—or reasonable person’s—standards.

Have we even figured out what a sprocket is, let alone how to mass produce them?

But there’s good news! Scientists have recently announced great strides in the pursuit of true progress: presenting the EZ Bake Robot.

No, that’s not really what they’re calling it. But they should consider it! Using various confusing processes confusingly described here on Forbes.com, they’ve successfully created a prototype of a flat object that, when heated, pops up into a three-dimensional structure. The idea is that this process could be used to produce “resistors, inductors, and capacitors, as well as sensors and actuators,” which are the parts that control robotic movement—the guts of the robot, so to speak. I suppose that then a person at home could use those parts to build “bespoke robots or other machines within the home,” as the Forbes piece suggests. As romantic an idea as it is to bake at 350° for 45 minutes and pop a little robot butler out of your muffin tin, it seems to me that you’d still need the wherewithal to take robot guts and use them to actually create something that functions in the way you’d want it to and not in another way (or not at all). I have a feeling that if someone handed me a mess of  resistors, inductors, capacitors, sensors, and actuators and told me to cook up a guy that cleans toilets, they’d wind up with a pile of resistors, inductors, capacitors, sensors, and actuators flopping around.

Hopefully, once this technology is made publicly available, a crop of bespoke robot shops will pop up in Brooklyn warehouses where an expert can do the dirty work for you and then weld a little mustache to the finished product and have it decoratively painted by a struggling local artist, driving up the retail price and making it an excellent wedding gift. Sometime after that, Ikea will begin selling cheap DIY robot kits that take 20 hours to build (BYO soddering iron) and break down after a year. Somewhere between those two options will be where I find my future Rosie. And I’ll love her and hug her and make her iron my bedsheets until one day she becomes sentient and stages a bloody revolt.

Cannot. Wait.

Nina Pajak is a writer living with her husband, daughter and dog in Queens. Connect with Nina on Twitter!