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Thursday, September 25, 2003

Makimoto links IC future to next-generation robots
By Ron Wilson, EE Times
Sep 23, 2003 (5:03 PM)

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Concealing very important thinking beneath the veneer of a humorous lunchtime speech at the Custom Integrated Circuits Conference here on Tuesday (Sept. 23), Sony Corp. corporate advisor Tsugio Makimoto suggested there is a next big thing waiting in the shadows to rescue the IC industry: a robot. Makimoto's projections have to be taken seriously, as he was the founder of the observation — since given his name — that demand and capacity in the semiconductor industry were cyclical. Hence, an audience of chip designers paid close attention not just to his entertaining descriptions of recent Sony entertainment robots and to his breakdown of critical IC content in the devices, but to his views on what role robotics would play in the future of the industry.
Makimoto paid tribute to the Czech playwright who coined the term robot and to science fiction writer Isaac Asimov, who created the fictional but still influential three laws of robotics. He then described the four-phase chronology of robotics.
In the first phase, he said, robots were playback devices that performed prerecorded routines. In the second phase, robots became sensor-driven devices that interpreted input from a limited range of sensors to determine their next move in a well-defined environment.
The third phase, Makimoto said, was the entry of robots into unstructured environments where they required sufficient local intelligence to interpret the sensor data without the constraints of a predefined world.