What's intriguing about robotics, as a market, is that it's not one market.
Robotics consists of many markets – toy markets, industrial markets, military markets, scientific markets, education markets. Which means all the trends currently taking place in computing and education can be brought to bear, profitably.
For example. Cloud computing gives robots a common platform in which to expand their internal knowledge. Social computing gives them a means with which to use all this, a way to self-program. A cloud database can give a robot artificial experience, and social computing algorithms let them share it. The result is that computing intelligence quickly becomes something that passes for real intelligence as robots “learn” and “program themselves” based on other robots' experience.
This can be important when robots go into the field, literally. Japan wants to use robots to grow crops in the tsunami area, given the lack of young people in that country. and the high radioactivity in the area.
Industrial robots also benefit from what's happening in the renewable energy space. Microbial fuel cells could produce the low-power necessary to keep robots going on distant planets or in space. We're talking tiny robots, and tiny robots could clear blood vessels of plaque from the inside. Or reverse it, use robots to move a sail about the ocean that can make biodiesel out of algae blooms.
Of course, what this whole thing really needs is a generation of young minds, like those who powered the PC revolution in the 1970s. We don't just have to reproduce MIT. We need kids playing with robots the way those in my generation played with electrical breadboards. This is what makes kits like Cubelets (above) so important. Like Little Bits these kits make the transition between playing and learning, the next step being doing.
So what you've got is a thriving industry, and a huge culture growing up into it. The real Susan Calvin may be attending an elementary school near you right now.