Getting Ready for the 'Robot Revolution'

Getting Ready for the 'Robot Revolution'

As advances in technology allow for smarter, more versatile robots, their place in society likely will become more diverse. No longer limited to just factories, they are expected to become more widely used in places such as laboratories, hospitals and foo

With an expected boom in demand, one company is anticipating greater need for robot technicians.

MobileRobots, a designer and manufacturer of intelligent mobile robot platforms as well as sensing, navigation and control products, has launched a service-robot technician training program to teach technical and career college students robot customization, installation and maintenance.

The classes, which will begin as early as August, will take place at ITT Technical Institute's Woburn, Mass., campus. The two-week classes will be limited to about only 10 students, putting an emphasis on each individual getting hands-on experience.

MobileRobots will offer a service-robot technician program as the demand for robots and the workers needed to maintain them is expected to increase.

Robot technology has advanced rapidly in recent years, as industrial robot arms that performed repetitive tasks have given way to highly sophisticated automated systems.

According to Jeanne Dietsch, CEO of MobileRobots, robots no longer need Ph.D. programmers to perform a function. What they do need, however, are capable technicians.

MobileRobots' technician training curriculum will place a heavy emphasis on performing facility assessments, which involves programming the robot to understand the building's floor plan, where the robot is allowed, where it's not allowed, and, for instance, where the pickup and drop-off points are or the location of the docking station.

"As robot sales increase exponentially, the number of people that are needed to do assessments like this is going to rise as well," says Dietsch.

William Kennedy, author of the training curriculum, says the shift in how robots are used demands a larger workforce familiar with the technology.

"Students need jobs with a future, and the mobile robot industry need technicians," says Kennedy. "Tens of thousands of people make a living customizing and servicing PCs and software. Unless technical schools train people to customize and service robots, the robot revolution won't happen."

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