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How Can Robots Spice Up the Public Sector?

Robotics experts imagine government applications for robots

by / October 24, 2013

SAN FRANCISCO — Vendors attended the Pepcom Holiday Spectacular last week at the Metreon shopping center to showcase products geared primarily for consumer customers. Government Technology asked builders and communications staff if their creations would have any government applications, especially the robots.

Their responses were fun and surprising.

Ben Galperin, a member of the Robotics Society of America, drove his remote-controlled robot bartender Isaac around the showcase floor. He designs robots for the company BarBot, which supplies automatons that serve cocktails at events. Galperin thought it would be great to build another robot that could loosen up government leaders.

Alan Bryant, digital media executive for Wow! Stuff, had something totally different in mind. He was there to promote toy robots called Attacknids, walking, spider-shaped machines that shoot projectiles. According to Bryant, an Attacknid could serve military functions.

“It can be a little spybot to go gather information all-terrain. You can put a spy camera on it, take it into different landscapes, so you can see what’s going on,” Bryant said.

But Zachary Lytle, a technician who builds small, motorized battle robots for Bot Bash, felt like robots benefited education more than they did the government. He designed robots for the World Robotics Tournament, and in the process he earned a scholarship to California State University, Chico, in engineering. This practical, real-world experience will arm students with the skills they need to get hired in the workforce.

“It was during the recession, and a lot of people were having trouble finding jobs, but because I had the practical experience of milling metal and actually programming small circuits, it gave me the edge over all the other graduates and I ended up getting a job right out of college,” Lytle said.

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Hilton Collins

Hilton Collins is a former staff writer for Government Technology and Emergency Management magazines.

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