Robotics departments are popping up across the country in high schools, colleges and now, major wide corporations. The National Robotics Engineering Center at Carnegie Mellon University has been in operation for 20 years – with a reputation of producing robot technology for the American military, John Deere, Caterpillar and other popular brand names. However, within the past year, more and more employees are missing. The cause? Uber.
The San Francisco firm that seamlessly connects riders to drivers through apps is making cities more accessible for possibilities and business for those that use the service. And they want to get in the robotics business themselves. Barely a mile away from the NREC, Uber just opened the Advanced Technology Center, where former CMU researchers are developing new technologies for Uber – helping them extend their reach over the roads.
By offering private-sector salaries higher than what a university would pay, Uber was able to acquire a significant amount of people to help them deliver their goals and ideas for the future. However – this could pose a problem to some. When researchers leave an industry, their expertise “winks off the map” – as in they cannot publish their discoveries, or discuss over drinks with former colleagues. Or it could be a blessing in disguise, generating symbiotic relationships between real-world experience and teaching students in a classroom.
The field of research is becoming extremely lucrative giving companies in Silicon Valley a run for their money to scramble any researchers away from renowned universities. Exploring basic problems is no longer what is needed, but researches need to solve problems that will make these companies even more money than they already have. We’re working with a multi-billion dollar industry that is going to grow more than we all know.
However the million dollar question is where is the best place to pursue research – at a university, or in a corporate R&D lab at a place like Uber? Will there even be academics who want to do early-stage public minded work?