Eric Brown, of IBM Watson fame, gave a fascinating talk on the progress of Watson. The success of Watson in Jeopardy has re-invigorated interest in AI, a field which has been on the verge of breaking through (just like Robotics). Eric talked about how IBM was now developing Watson for applications in the healthcare industry, mining data from medical records and tests to suggest informed decisions in medical cases. If it succeeds in such a venture, it would be a great example of a successful "tech-transfer" where a promising technology goes on to also be commercially successful. Its also a good example of why technology should never be judged solely by its cover - the Jeopardy task may seem trivial in light of all the more important issues in the world but the ultimate applications of the technology are much more worthwhile.
AI, in a certain form, is already part of our lives, e.g. in Siri and competing similar services. AI also made headlines recently with the claim by Vicarious, a Bay Area startup, that they had beaten Captcha (my former office-mate and colleague from Willow Garage, Bhaskara Marthi, now works at Vicarious). Robotics is the ultimate frontier for AI and we'll have to wait and watch for how long it might take for these two fields to converge (again).