TED LARSON walks to the front of the crowded room and lays an ordinary-looking smartphone, encased in a black plastic cradle, flat on the table.
It’s show-and-tell at the Homebrew Robotics Club (HBRC), the informal nerve centre of Silicon Valley’s robotics community and the heart of a technological revolution that is about to haul robots out of the lab and into our lives.
Larson strokes a finger across the phone’s touchscreen and an animated face appears. One end of the phone then rears up as the cradle splits into a pair of legs, allowing the phone-robot to wander around, cooing when people "tickle" it and taking photos of faces using its inbuilt camera. "It’s a transformer!" laughs one delighted hobbyist. "It’s Skynet," breathes another.
They may both be right. Larson, who runs a robotic toy and gadget company called Ologic, believes roboticists like those in HBRC ...