Special purpose industrial robots are evolving into more general purpose personal robots, just as special purpose mainframes have grown into general purpose personal computers. Although planetary rovers and car assembling robot arms come immediately to mind, traditional software systems are becoming increasingly embodied and situated in their environment — they are becoming robots. Similarly, robot computing systems, like traditional computing systems, can be built in a distributed manner, like the Internet, allowing us to exploit spatial locality, parallelism, redundancy, heterogeneity, and modularity.
Research in the drab lab is at the boundary between the real, physical world and the computational world; the work lives at the intersection of intelligent systems, robotics, and interactive software systems research. By building and experimenting with interactive robot systems we hope to understand the fundamental trade-offs concerning computation, communication, sensing, mobility, and manipulation in robot systems. Ultimately, we look to use the potential of distributed robotics, and computation in general, to make the real, physical world a better place.