Robo Who? or What to Do With Your Old Iphone

Feel like having your own mini-me follow you around, then may I present, RoboMe. This little machine isn’t due out until later in the year, but it did debut at the annual toy fair in New York City. Produced by Wowee, they are making another entry into the telepresence arena. They did have a previous entry called the the Rovio, however that has been discontinued.

The RoboMe is potentially not just another iOS toy. With RoboMe, you are able to create a robot personality, appearance, and voice. But, as with everything else, toys are getting packed with a lot more technology and this little bot will be enabled with facial tracking, voice command recognition, and remote vide control via a separate iPhone or iPod Touch, you can control the robot. Sadly, I’m stuck with Android, so I’ll just wait another year for my toys.

rethink robotics logo

Rethink Robotics

Ever since it was announced by Rethink Robotics back in September, many of us in the robotics community have been patiently waiting for Baxter to be delivered.  Baxter was developed by Rodney Brooks of both MIT and iRobot as a means to bring back manufacturing to the US and allow small to mid-size manufacturers and job shops in the US to compete with operations in lower wage countries. Rethink which had been operating in stealth mode for the past several years and was originally named Heartland Robotics. Hearkening a call that could allow and bring more manufacturing back to the US and allow companies to “rethink” their decision of off-shoring.  
image of CSIRO musuem telepresence robot

Remotely tour a museum

     The National Museum of Australia has implemented telepresence robot technology in order to teach children from different locations about Australia's history. The Museum Robot by CSIRO connects to the internet via broadband and allows for remote visitors to experience the interactivity of learning from a teacher in a teaching-environment. The effect is an immersive learning environment, where a full visual-auditory experience may make new information more palatable, and more easily retain-able. The robot is accessible to all Australian schools and libraries with a connection to the national broadband network. The estimated cost of the trials run with this robot was about $3.5 million, and was funded mainly by the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, CSIRO, and the National Museum of Australia.

image of amigo service robot

Amigo Service Robot: research through machine learning

     Previously we have written about some popular robots like the PR2 from Willow Garage, or HERB from Carnegie Mellon. Today I am pleased to present you with AMIGO, from the Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands. AMIGO means Autonomous Mate for IntelliGent Operations.

     AMIGO is currently taking part in the RoboEarth project, which connects him to other robots over a cloud network. This enables them to help solve each others problems through machine learning. This would be similar to me Googling how to tie a bow-tie, rather than each acting in its own world, they can use each other to identify objects and perform tasks. No roboticist is able to create an algorithm or instructions for every circumstance. Using this network, robots can learn to deal with unforeseen circumstances, increasing their utility around the home and elsewhere.

Small image of the Rbot Synergy Swan robot

Russia's Synergy SWAN wins on price

Synergy Swan, of Russia's R.Bot technology company, is an amazingly affordable telepresence robot designed specifically for the consumer based market. Synergy Swan is exceptionally inexpensive while still being powerful. It is appealing to the eyes, weighs about 30 lbs, and is powered by smart devices such as phones and tablets.

The screen (or face) of the robot can be any Android device, such as a smartphone or tablet. You attach your mobile device to the robot, and it becomes alive with fully functional telepresence communication capabilities. It can scrunch up into a tiny ball, and extend/retract its neck to allow for greater mobility and visual acuity. Its sleek design makes it perfect for the consumer market, and the relatively affordable price of about $999 makes it even better.

BeamPro robot picture of a businessman standing alongside the robot.

Beam RPD distinguishes itself

     The Beam remote presence device (RPD) is produced by Suitable Technologies, a Willow Garage spin-off. The origins of Beam started with one of Willow Garage's electrical engineers, Dallas Goecker. Living in Indiana and working in Silicon Valley, they developed the first prototype, (called Texai) using spare parts from a PR2 robot and the rest was off the shelf.

     The introduction of Beam is not just another me-too product but is truly top shelf. Sporting a 17" screen the Beam distinguishes itself from the competition. Its high quality experience allows users the ability to actually read facial gestures, improving user's experience compared to the 4" or 8" screen size of its competitors. The array of 6 microphones cancel echo and reduce background noise to allow for the best possible audio setting.

     With Beam you'll also get four wireless radios, that allow it to be connected to multiple wireless points at the same time. A subtle feature that creates smooth handoffs between access points, significantly decreasing dropped speech and video.

The Ava 500 remote presence robot pictured at the head of a table during a business meeting.

Self-navigating Telepresence

     The Ava 500 is the result of two great companies working together. iRobot and Cisco have partnered up to create a new telepresence robot, the Ava 500. iRobot is taking advantage of their Ava platform with its 3d laser mapping and self-navigating feature, while Cisco is using their EX60 remote conference and enterprise network expertise. This enables employees to focus on conferencing rather than learning to drive and navigate around obstacles.

Image of the Kompai telepresence robot.

Robosoft’s Kompai

Originally developed to assist seniors in their homes, Kompai is a service robot first, and a telepresence robot a close second. Kompai recently participated in DOMEO, a European research project that focused on bringing assistive robots into the homes of elderly patients, obtaining both social interaction data as well as functional data. This was one of the largest and longest service robot projects ever to take place and the results will certainly be analyzed to understand better the relationships between robots and humans as well as the abilities that roboticists think are useful and what patients and the caregivers will actually need. Kompai was developed by Robosoft to be an interactive robot that can function not only as a pseudo-caregiver but also as a guide or greeter. On the healthcare side, it can record activity and vital data to health care professionals or family members as well as assist with daily tasks and reminders. The ability to perform and facilitate mental exercises is a capability, but did not seem to be part of the study. The results of DOMEO were mixed with both praise and criticism from health care workers and patients.

Image of the Double robot's base wheel.

The Hottest New Ipad Accessory

Double Robotics received quite a bit of press coverage in 2012 when it unveiled Double, its iPad driven telepresence robot. They were originally anticipating shipping in February, but due to overwhelming response, they had to rethink and scale up their manufacturing. According to their website, Double started rolling off the production lines in late May, but has all the anticipation been worth it? The Double is an beautifully designed piece of hardware, something that is often missing when several engineers develop a product. I believe that the coverage and write-ups have been worthwhile , as they recently received a “Best of Show” award at Macworld 2013. They also know how to take advantage of an opportunity to showcase their product. During a recent CIO Leadership Forum, NASA official Dr. Sasi Pillay was unable to physically attend due to budget cuts from the federal government sequestration. It just so happened that one of the panelists was Jay Liew of Double Robotics. Recognizing the opportunity, they taught Dr. Pillay how to operate the Double and within minutes he was participating alongside his physical counterparts in the panel discussion.


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