The Robots of Silicon Valley

There’s been such a nice response to the Bots video by Ben Jolitz and Rebecca Jolitz (see Fun Friday: How Many Robots Can You Name?). Some folks just like watching a little movie about robots made by two kids who love them. Others saw it as just one of the ways GenY’s can actualize their interests in an increasingly anti-science and anti-creative world. And finally, most folks recognized some robot or toy from their childhood or profession – we had a lot of NASA viewers who loved the “Mars with retractable lever arm” scene (hint why funny – did the little Mars rover have a lever arm?).

So in rereading East Coast, West Coast: Where Will We See the Future of “Robot Valley by Dr. Pete Markiewicz, where he argues (correctly) that a Hollywood styled “Matrix” is misleading to real robotics work, which relies on realtime systems programming and operation, I found his east coast argument well-honed, but missing the “big picture”, in both realtime design (and yes, we have a bit of that experience over the years) and current media trends.

Fortunately, realtime programming, board design, and minimalism in operating systems is still alive and kicking. Ben Jolitz is currently on the robotics team at his local high school, is knowledgeable in programming and systems, and has participated in a number of competitions. His younger sister Rebecca Jolitz has become accomplished in media production, and also has a serious science and astronomy interest. Finally, they both avail themselves of talks and information that abound here in Silicon Valley and from NASA. There are tremendous resources available to those who ask.

Pioneers are always few. Believe me – I know, given my involvement in doing the first open source Berkeley Unix operating system for the masses. When we started out at Berkeley so many years ago working on an X86 version *no one* believed in Unix except as an expensive customized solution, especially Intel. It is very different nowadays, isn’t it?

The fascination with massive multiplayer gaming and the Internet with the masses today stems from it becoming a mature market – it is no longer an emerging one. So look to the GenY’s of tomorrow – the ones who go to the talks and enter science fairs and even (yes, even) create stories and movies about robots as they dream of tomorrow. Like rare roses in a field of weeds, you might find them hard to spot, but they are definitely there. You just have to look harder, and believe.

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Lynne

Lynne Jolitz is a Silicon Valley OS pioneer, inventor, and startup founder.

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