The Centibots project, funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), sought to prove that up to 100 robots could survey a potentially dangerous area, build a map in real time, and seek items of interest. Centibots communicated with each other to coordinate their effort. If one robot failed, another took over its task. The robots were completely autonomous, requiring no human supervision.
Developed by the Japanese government to create global climate models, the Earth Simulator is a massively parallel, vector-based system that costs nearly 60 billion yen (roughly $600 million at the time). A consortium of aerospace, energy, and marine science agencies undertook the project, and the system was built by NEC around their SX-6 architecture. To protect it from earthquakes, the building housing it was built using a seismic isolation system that used rubber supports. The Earth Simulator was listed as the fastest supercomputer in the world from 2002 to 2004.
Leaving Palm Inc., Ed Colligan, Donna Dubinsky, and Jeff Hawkins found Handspring. After retiring their initial Visor series of PDAs, Handspring introduced the Treo line of smartphones, designed with built-in keyboards, cameras, and the Palm operating system. The Treo sold well, and the line continued until Handspring was purchased by Palm in 2003.
iRobot’s Roomba is introduced. Using a cleaning algorithm, the autonomous robotic vacuum cleaner could clean a room while detecting and avoiding obstacles. Rodney Brooks, co-founder of iRobot, previously performed research at MIT’s Mobile Robotics Lab. The research focused on using insect-like reflex behavior instead of a central “brain” to create purposeful behavior.