Robots serve humans on land, in sea and air

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MIT's version of the "robotoddler" is just the latest MIT entry in the world of robots that can move themselves in a variety of settings. There's still a long way to go before today's robots evolve into practical, everyday technologies, but even now, autonomous robotic vehicles developed at MIT are exploring uncharted or hazardous places, assisting troops in combat and performing household tasks. In addition to his well-known work on humanoid robots such as Kismet, Professor Rodney Brooks led the development of several robotic vehicles and co-founded a company, iRobot, that develops these machines commercially. Troops in Afghanistan use PackBots to explore enemy caves, and soldiers in Iraq use them to detect improvised explosive devices and inspect weapons caches. "In 20 years, we've gone from robots that can hardly maneuver around objects to ones that can navigate in unstructured environments," said Brooks, director of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL).