Archive for the ‘consumer robots’ Category

Domestic service robots are a growing market

March 5, 2007

Financial Times reports the market for ‘service robots’ is starting to take wing. There were 1.9 million of the devices in use around the world in 2005, and demand is growing.

Microsoft’s Bill Gates has described the industry as one that “may well change the world.” Honda Motor Co. predicts that less than half a century from now, everyone who has a car will have a robot.

For housework haters, it is an enticing prospect. “We are 20 years off having an ironing robot,” said Mark Norman, chief executive of Merlin Systems Corp., a British robotics company developing artificial muscle technology.

South Korea’s government is among those leading the charge. Having identified robotics as one of its 10 key economic drivers, it is pumping nearly $50 million into research every year over 10 years.

“The rate of growth in the [service] robotics market is somewhere between 50% and 400% a year,” said Henrik Christensen, a professor at the School of Computer Science and Communication in Stockholm.

Among the many potential applications for service robots is the potential for robot servants to help look after the growing number of elderly.


Japan Mixes Robotics With Tea Time

March 1, 2007

A humanoid wearing an apron picks up a cup of tea.

University of Tokyo researchers have created robots that have learned the custom of serving tea.

In a demonstration this week, a humanoid with camera eyes made by Kawada Industries Inc. poured tea from a bottle into a cup.

Then another robot on wheels delivered the cup of tea in an experimental room that has sensors embedded in the floor and sofa as well as cameras on the ceiling, to simulate life with robot technology.

“A human being may be faster, but you’d have to say `Thank you,'” said University of Tokyo professor Tomomasa Sato. “That’s the best part about a robot. You don’t have to feel bad about asking it to do things.”

Sato believes Japan, a rapidly aging society where more than a fifth of the population is 65 or older, will lead the world in designing robots to care for the elderly, sick and bedridden.

Your next gadget purchase could be a personal robot

February 23, 2007

Engineers and economists are now predicting that robotics is about to make the leap from the factory floor to your family room.

Companies including Sony and General Electric are working on designs for small robotic devices for consumers. Products like the Roomba, a robot that automatically vacuums floors, are flying off the shelves. And the cover of a recent issue of Scientific American featured no less a technological luminary than Bill Gates boldly predicting the “Dawn of the Age of Robots.”

What’s behind this new era? It’s partly a matter of technology. Devices have been developed that can recognize and respond to a human voice or map the boundaries of a room to avoid collisions. There are now a dozen different ways for robots to get around, from walking to crawling to riding on unicycle-like wheels. All of these components are being miniaturized and are becoming increasingly energy efficient.

Tired-journalism alert:  Author makes hackneyed reference to Rosie the Robot from Jetson’s fame.  See Rosie the Robot and hack journalism.

We’re going the way of the robot

February 20, 2007

The annual American Association for Advancement of Science conference in San Francisco came into its own this year, especially media-wise.  Many articles have been written on panel discussions.  We’ve learned much about Junior, the autonomous vehicle that will compete in the Urban Challenge.

Here’s an article from Newsday that references Junior as well as other creations discussed last weekend in the City by the Bay:

In the not-so-distant future, a new generation of machines may be driving for us, watching our kids and dispensing medicine, according to a panel of experts assembled at the annual conference of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

The remarkable potential has engineers and computer scientists thinking big even as other researchers ponder our increasingly complicated relationships with the machines we’ve endowed with ever-greater artificial intelligence.

“Not only must they be intelligent, but they must be able to go anywhere,” said Robert Full, a biologist at the University of California, Berkeley.

And with nature as a source of inspiration, many are doing just that. Full’s studies of how a cockroach runs, for example, led to the collaborative development of a robot known as RHex and its smaller sibling, EduBot – each equipped with six legs that can independently move forward or backward and climb over a variety of terrains.

Robot androids ‘in 10 years’

February 19, 2007

UK’s Telegraph with more on the American Association for the Advancement of Science in San Francisco. 

Commercially available robots such as automatic vacuum cleaners are little more than drones capable of carrying out only one task. However, a panel of robotics experts said robots capable of multiple domestic tasks, that can also provide companionship for their owners, will be available within 10 years.

The past five years has seen dramatic leaps in technology needed to build better robots. Artificial intelligence has made it possible to create robots that can solve problems and learn.

Electronics firm Honda has taken the technology even further with its humanoid robot Asimo, which can carry out complex movements such as dancing, dodge traffic on a busy road and even mimic human movements.

Making the right robot for the right job

February 19, 2007

San Francisco Chronicle article on four experts who spoke about the current and future state of robotics at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

As Saturday’s talks revealed, the convergence of key technologies hint that, within decades, robots may be able to perform tasks that were hitherto only fiction. These advances include:

— cheap, effective sensors that substitute for biological senses;
— sophisticated software and computers that approximate nerves and brains; and
— the ability to manufacture tiny mechanisms to mimic muscles.

San Francisco State University professor David Calkins, looked the furthest ahead suggesting that robots would eventually become personal companions, answering questions, serving as butlers, even reading children bedtime stories.

Hackers Love to Vacuum

February 18, 2007

Washington Post article on the popularity of hacking the Roomba. (Hacked Roomba video included)

Chris Hughes has a vision of the future that involves — finally! — bringing together hacked game systems, wireless Internet access and clean floors.

Here’s how it would work. From anywhere on the globe, Hughes could open up his wirelessly connected Nintendo DS player, tap on the portable game system’s touchscreen with a stylus, and select an area of his home’s floor plan.

Meanwhile, back at home, his tricked-out Roomba robotic vacuum cleaner would hum to life and zoom off to clean that area of his apartment. “That would be flippin’ sweet!” he said.

Something New York could use right about now

February 10, 2007

Parts of New York have weathered 8 feet of snow over the last few days, with more expected.  They could probably use a few hundred of these robots (above).  

Yuki-taro is an autonomous snowplow robot created by a team of Japanese researchers from five Niigata-area organizations.

The bot is equipped with GPS monitoring and a video camera in each eye.  Researchers are working to reduce its size and weight, to make the robot commercially available within 5 years at a price of $8,300 USD.

If Leonardo Had Made Toys

February 8, 2007

New York Times reports that more than 500 years after Leonardo Da Vinci’s vision of mechanical flight, robot company WowWee will make those drawings a reality.

Next month, WowWee plans to release a mass-produced, functional ornithopter, a device that flies in birdlike fashion — in this case, a radio-controlled toy that mechanically flaps its Mylar wings.

During demonstration flights of the Dragonfly last month at the Consumer Electronics Show, the annual technology showcase in Las Vegas, the fluttering, footlong bug was an enormous hit. Throngs of onlookers clamored for a chance to buy the $50 toy on the spot. At the time, none were for sale.

Pleo Delayed for More Improvements

February 2, 2007


PC magazine reports that robotic dinosaur Pleo will be delayed until the summer. 

In a letter to a Pleo friends and fans mailing list, inventor Caleb Chung explained that Ugobe has decided to enhance the robot dinosaur’s sound with new speakers and increased audio levels and an expanded sound library.

The company has also been paying close attention to how people have been interacting with the various prototypes. Apparently people like to stroke Pleo under its chin, even though it has no sensors there. Now the shipping version of robot will have a chin sensor, bringing the total number of sensors to 35.