A lot of innovation in any field is built on top of other innovation, and that's true of programming too.
James Gosling got the inspiration of creating a platform neutral programming language while he was doing his PhD at Carnegie Mellon in Robotics. His professor needed Pascal programs to be able to run on several different DEC VAX machines. So, Gosling created a compiler that converted Pascal into (what he called as ) p-code, and he made a VMs that could execute the p-code on several different DEC VAX computers. Gosling realised the power of Write Once Run Anywhere while making these VMs. As we all know Gosling is the father of Java programming language.
So, you could say Java programming language itself was inspired by challenges in doing research in robotics.
subject: In search of real life examples which inspired computer scientists to form some solution