… Well, maybe not quite yet.
But Westport Library in Connecticut did make the headlines as the first library to purchase a pair of humanoid robots. These robots, named Vincent and Sandy, can speak in 19 languages, have conversations, do Tai Chi, walk, dance, and pick themselves up if they fall over. But even though they look a bit like Fisher Price toys, standing two feet tall with blue and red accents to their white bodies, they are amazingly complex. Equipped with cameras, microphones, sonar, and motion sensors, they can even “feel” with tactile and pressure sensors. While their obvious bells and whistles are pretty astounding on their own, the bots have a wealth of internal information. They will primarily be used to teach coding and programming skills to animate and modify machines similar to themselves.
Westport Library is known for its willingness to embrace the latest in technological innovation. Vincent and Sandy will become a part of Westport’s “Maker space,” an area in which patrons can explore different technological skills such as computer coding and 3D printing. Library staff are particularly excited about the bots. As Maxine Bleiweis, the executive director of Westport, says in an article from the Wall Street Journal,
“Robotics is the next disruptive technology coming into our lives and we felt it was important to make it accessible to people so they could learn about it…From an economic-development perspective and job- and career-development perspective, it’s so important.”
What is “disruptive technology”? Coined by Harvard professor Clayton M. Christensen, disruptive technology, or “disruptive innovation,” describes an innovation which completely changes existing markets or sectors, “disrupting” the playing field with “simplicity, convenience, accessibility, and affordability where complication and high cost [had previously been] the status quo.” The classic example is the personal computer, which built an entirely new market and completely destroyed the existing industry.