Chapter 14. Toward the Physical Internet

In the previous chapter, our foray into building robots was mainly focused on connecting inputs (sensors for motion, proximity, etc.) and outputs (motors, displays, LEDs, etc.). In this chapter, we’ll expand our work with single robotic devices to use robots as building blocks for shared experiences.

JavaScript was born in a web browser. What happens when web interfaces and robots merge? To give you some ideas, this chapter will introduce concepts and provide context to help address human needs with new technologies. This is important but hard to do. A famous example is the Apple Newton handheld device that was developed in 1993, long before smartphones became popular. The device was discontinued in 1998, but by adding a web browser, music, and more features, smartphones are estimated to populate the pockets of around two billion people today.

This chapter explores a few perspectives on the increasingly connected world we’re building, and gives some example projects on how you can become an active participant in creating this connected society.

What Are Shared Experiences?

If you use Twitter or Facebook, you can see shared experiences as the connections you make when you “like” or “retweet” messages in your social network. Shared experiences allow humans to connect and form new kinds of communities. With the help of robots, shared experiences get physical.

For example, you could build a simple light setup that flashes when someone tweets ...

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