Welcome to Detroit: Future Home of RobotTown?

Detroit already has a Greektown, a Corktown, a Poletown, and even Hockeytown. Soon, if Mark Salamango has his way, it will also have RobotTown, a nonprofit “living laboratory” dedicated to robotics innovation, testing, education, incubation, and events.

Salamango compares RobotTown, which he hopes will have a campus in the middle of the city, to a futuristic version of Dearborn, MI’s Greenfield Village, a National Historic Landmark that celebrates American history and innovation through unique educational experiences based on authentic objects, re-enactments, and displays. He wants to create a place where parents bring their kids, teachers bring their students, and interested parties come from near and far to interact with what’s on display, whether it’s agricultural robots in a field harvesting corn, personal vehicles powered by robots, or a food court where robots keep the floors tidy.

Salamango also wants RobotTown to be a facility where government and private industry can test robotics innovations, as well as a space where garage-workshop scientists can bring their ideas and collaborate with other tinkerers and entrepreneurs. Salamango says the vacant former Michigan State Fair site near 8 Mile and Woodward—with its 180 acres, paved lanes, and auditorium—is the venture’s dream home.

“We want a place where people can socialize with robots and understand them more,” Salamango says. “I also think it’s so valuable for kids to see scientists at work. I have daughters, and before they get into the Justin Bieber thing and then that’s all they care about, I want to get them interested in robotics.”

RobotTown was conceived by the U.S. Army’s head roboticist Jim Overholt, who works out of the Tank Automotive Research and Development Center in Warren, MI. Salamango, who has a background in … Next Page »

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