Friday, December 26, 2008

Tip of The Month: Roomba Battery Maintenance

















Times are tough and we all need to save and/or extend every penny we have. One way to do so is by making your Roomba work in tip top condition by exercising some battery maintenance. The following tips were originally for the 400/"Discovery" series Roomba but many can still be applied to the newer 500.

Roomba's battery can last for hundreds of charging cycles with proper care. Here are some tips to extend the life of your battery, and help keep it at the peak of performance:
  • Frequent use - Rechargeable nickel-based batteries do best when used frequently. The worst thing for batteries like these is infrequent light use. The Roomba was designed to be used frequently; this will keep the battery healthy.
  • Keep the brushes and air filter clean - If the brushes, brush axles and air filter get clogged with hair and other debris, the unit will strain to spin them, consuming more power from the battery than normal, and battery life will suffer. In extreme cases, the battery can be damaged.
  • Occasionally exhaust the battery - At least once every month or two, make sure to run the unit until the battery is exhausted; it will stop running and will display a red light. It is not necessary to do this every time you use it because it can shorten its life.
  • Keep the battery charged - If you use the standard charger leave it plugged in all the time the unit is not being used. If you have a rapid charger, leave the battery in the rapid charger until just before you use it.
  • Buy a Rapid Charger and Second Battery - Using the optional Rapid Charger and a second battery will allow you to keep the unit running by swapping batteries between the Rapid Charger and the unit. In addition, the Rapid Charger's pulse-charging circuitry will optimize the battery's life while it waits in the Rapid Charger after completing its charge.
  • Keep the unit, batteries and chargers in a cool place - Battery life and charging efficiency are decreased if they are stored and charged in a very warm environment. They should be stored and charged in a cool dry place, out of direct sunlight and away from sources of heat such as windows, radiators, heating vents, and large appliances. Make sure the Rapid Charger and the unit have sufficient ventilation while charging. While it is charging a battery, the Rapid Charger should be sitting on a smooth hard surface (not on carpet or a rug) with plenty of space for ventilation.
  • Long-term storage - If you will not be using the unit for an extended period of time (more than a few weeks) it is best to fully charge the battery and then remove and store it separately. When you return, recharge the battery and then run it to exhaustion. The first few times you use it you may not get normal run times, but it will recover quickly if used regularly. Do not leave the battery in the unit for extended periods of time when not connected to a charger because it draws a slight current even when turned off. If left this way for more than a week the battery can run down. If left this way for many weeks, the battery can be damaged. Removing the battery from the unit will prevent this. Do not leave the battery sitting in the Rapid Charger with the Rapid Charger not plugged in to the wall.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Virtual Presence Robot Fallout



2008 was the year of the virtual presence robots. We had WowWee's Rovio, Erector's Spykee and are still waiting for iRobot's ConnectR. Rovio and Spykee came out not too long ago and both were highly anticipated to revolutionize on how we would connect remotely to our homes and be present at least "virtualy" with their help. Sadly both the Rovio and Spykee came short on these high expectations by arriving with issues like poor video quality, akward setup/configurations, unstable platforms and relatively unreliable performance. We can say that these were the Beta version at best of these types of domestic robots but we surely hope that their next version would fix many of these known problems so we can enjoy their true potential. This leaves iRobot's ConnectR in a very good position, their engineers can learn from the Rovio and Spykee mistakes in order to make a much better product. 2009 could prove to be the year of iRobot's ConnectR only if they make a reliable and very usable virtual presence robot.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Hardware Enthusiast + Robotics + Linux = DIY Robot
























Here is a nice one, a Linux embedded hardware enthusiast/PHP & MySQL developer named Adam Palmer has created a nice domestic robot from scratch! He is not the only one doing something like this but his designs and implementation use "off the shelf" parts that can inspire anyone to re-create this robot on his or her own! It is not a WowWee Rovio, an iRobot ConnectR or an Erector Spykee but it can do as such and then some more if one wished. Adam created this robot from idea to final product within a period of about two months. He used an Alix Mainboard
("brains" of the robot), 11.1v 2000-5000mAh LiION battery, gear motors, omnidirectional wheels , ultrasonic sensors, LEDs, light sensors, speaker/mic, IR transmitters, pico LCD, handful of relays and metal/plexiglass chasis to set this guy or gal up. Adam likes to think of this project as an "intelligent PC" but technologies like these tend to merge within robotics easily. Check out a video of his "domestic Robot" at his website (http://www.adamsinfo.com/). I applaud Adam for creating such a device and sharing it with all of us; I hope it inspires many of you out there to do the same by making your ideas into reality.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Tip of The Month: Maintain Your Karcher RC3000

If you are lucky enough to own a Karcher RC3000 you should already be aware how reliable and fully autonomous these floor cleaning robots are for your home. But one thing is true, the Karcher RC3000 is a well engineered robot but it even needs its maintenance routine once in a while to have it running on top notch efficiency and for years to come. Here are some simple steps that you can do with a couple of spare minutes of your time. Usually in an "ordinary" family home with no pets and just regular home dust you will need to do these steps once every 2 ~ 3 months but your mileage may vary by different enviromental conditions as pets, construction, ventilation, etc.

1. Remove the robot from its base, power it OFF and wipe the external shell with a lightly humid cloth to remove accumulated external dust. This will help the top IR sensors to always be cleared from dust so it can see its base much better and accurately.


















2. Wipe off collected dirt and grime from the wheels until clean with the same damp cloth or damp sponge. It helps the robot grip the floor and move better when these are cleaned well.


















3. Open up the dust/dirt bin and remove the meshed filter carefully. Cleanse thoroughly with cold water (no need to use detergents), leave it to air dry or use a towel (be careful not to rip the nylon mesh). A clean filter will improve dust/dirt collection efficiency by a huge factor!


















4. Pull out the main brush and cut away any accumulated wound up hair. Cleanse it with cold water after removing the hair and air or towel it dry. This will give better flexibility to the brushes and provide a better pathway for the dirt/dust particles to get suctioned off by the base.


















5. Clean the base rubber seal with the damp cloth or sponge. This will improve the seal between the robot and the base when it collects the dirt/dust from it.


















6. Remove the air filter from the base, cleanse it out with cold water, air or towel dry before re-inserting it to the base. This will improve suction from the main base to collect dust and dirt particles from the robot.


















Make sure that all cleansed parts and filters are dry before re-inserting them into the robot and/or base. Repeat these steps every time you need in order to make your RC3000 work and last for years to come!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

A Real Life Transformer Domestic Robot

















A couple of students from Louisiana State University created a versatile domestic robot called agBot. All current domestic robots currently in the market are single task robots, they either clean your floors, cut your lawn, check on your kids or serve as entertainers. The idea behind agBot is to have a domestic robot that is customizable to be used for multiple tasks. The agBot pictured is a multi-functional robot that is capable of acting as a security guard, cutting/fertilizing your lawn and even picking up your mail while running on solar/battery power. Domestic robots need to be multi-purpose and able to be upgraded with modules otherwise we will end up with a fleet of single task robots in the home like me (Scooba, Roomba, Dirt Dog, Cleanmate, i-Sobot, Rovio, etc.). iRobot, with their current modular Roomba 500 series, has set the first foot on a possible path towards multi-purpose robots but we will have to wait and see if they pursue this idea. If they do not then it will be up to people like these students from Louisiana State University to take on the task of creating multi-purpose robots.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Emergence within Domestic Robotics

"Emergence: The way complex systems and patterns arise out of a multiplicity of relatively simple interactions."
Emergence exists everywhere we look but recently it has been looked at as a method of creating artificial intelligence from basic instructions in robots. Swarm robotics is an interesting branch that can result in better and more efficient work from robots that work together for a single cause. Emergence with a swarm of robots is not pre-meditated but instead is a result of the sum of all these robots working around which end up with interesting patterns. Here is a nice video showing what I mean (observe closely how the robots (iRobot Create) "organize" the boxes):

Monday, November 17, 2008

iRobot is Keeping ConnectR on Life Support















Many had started to think that iRobot's ConnectR was out the door. The state of the economy and competitor products like WowWee Rovio makes it difficult for iRobot to continue with the ConnectR project but it seems that they still have it on life support! Recently some iRobot robot owners have received a survey asking them for their opinions on concepts/experiments/ideas that they have in mind. I would be very glad to see and review what they have on their R&D tables.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Aldebaran in Motion; Will You Still Want One?

In March 2008 I wrote about Aldebaran Robotics and their interesting humanoid robot called "NAO". Back then, Bruno Maisonnier (Founder), mentioned that Nao was scheduled to go on sale on Q4 2008 and we are only a few months before 2008 ends! This robot will not be cheap but it does come with many electronics and features that will make any geek faint. Take a look for yourselves to see what NAO is capable and let me know if you are getting one!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Tip of The Month: Save Your Roomba's Fixed Front Wheel

The new versions of Roomba 4000 series and the latest Roomba 500 series all have the caster style front wheel but thousands upon thousands of other Roombas out there, still cleaning homes, have the "old" style fixed front wheel on them. For those who still have them or have purchased a Roomba with one can save the fixed plastic front wheel from premature wear from hard surfaces. Fixed wheels on carpet will not have this problem but on hard floors they will wear out within months of regular use. The following tip will allow you to slow down if not stop this premature wear.

1- Purchase or find black electrical tape (of approx. 1 inch width) and a hobby knife. Clean and clear the front wheel of any dirt/grime/hair as shown here:



















2- Cut the electrical tape in half for a length of aprox. 4 3/4 in. (this will provide about 1/4 in. overlap) :



















3- Apply the cut electrical tape on the front wheel while pulling it (this will make the elect. tape 'hug' the wheel surface evenly and tightly), you can use two hands (I used one because I was holding the camera) :



















4- When you finish, press with your fingers all along the applied elect. tape in order to take out any ripples/air bubbles and to make sure that it is applied well. Depending on your hard surface floor this will protect your front wheel from premature wear for at least 1 - 3 months! Repeat the process every time you need to prevent wear and tear on the fixed front wheel of your Roomba.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Segway Platforms For Future Domestic Robots

Segway is known worldwide from its introduction of the Personal Transporter on December 2001, but many do not know that they also produce robotic platforms. Segway calls these units Robotic Mobility Platform (RMP), their Segway Personal Transporter engineering and performance were used to create these platforms. The Segway RMP are able to carry heavy payloads in tight spaces and are able to move in many types of terrain. Similar materials were used to create the platforms that will endure many harsh conditions which make them an ideal robotic platform to use for service applications. All of the RMP are battery powered which only emit a harmonic hum when they run. There are three main models to choose from: RMP 50/100 OMNI, RMP 50/100/200 and RMP 400.

RMP 50/100 OMNI - Uses unique 'mecanum' wheels which allows it to move sideways without turning. Designed for flat surfaces and can carry a maxium payload of 400 lbs. Cost range US$21,000 - 42,000.



















RMP 50/100/200 - Stable platform for indoor use that provides maneuverability and a tight turning radius. Can carry a maxium payload of 140 lbs. Cost range US$7,500 - 21,000.


















RMP 400 - Most powerful robotic platform from Segway. Designed to move accross challenging terrain and can carry a maxium payload of 400 lbs. Cost US$32,000.
















Though, not the cheapest platform available (some people find Roomba or others to be most economical), Segway do provide platforms for more industrial or research applications for robotics. Who knows? One day someone could possibly come up with a semi-humanoid robot that can move around on a RMP 100 or 200 platform around the house or office!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

How can You Inspire Future Robotics Engineers?

Just ask Dean Kamen! Creator of the Segway and the "Luke Arm" has founded an organization called FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) that inspires young people to get involved and learn about science and technology. FIRST has yearly technological challenges and for the 2008 season (FIRST Tech. Challenge 2008) a new robotics platform was introduced. The robotics platform, called the FTC competition kit, consists of a TETRIX metal robot structure kit,LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT robotics kit, servomotors, controllers, advanced sensors and LEGO NXT, NXTG, LabView for FTC, and RobotC programming software. With these new competition kits, high school students will be able to apply mathematics, science and technology to solve annual challenges. I find this kind of events do help push the further development of domestic robotics and would like to see other inventors, entrepreneurs and technology companies get involved in similar projects like this one. Kudos to Dean Kamen for creating something like this! If you wish to join and/or learn more about FIRST go to: www.usfirst.org

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A Better Domestic Floor Cleaning Robot

Back in April 2008 I posted about the new Samsung Hauzen VC-RE70V. This nice domestic floor cleaning robot was released around the same time for the South Korean market giving an interesting competition to iRobot's Roomba series robots. What sets the VC-RE70V apart is the manner on how it cleans, it does it intelligently by using room mapping techniques. By using room mapping techniques, the floor cleaning robot can do its job much more efficient compared to a statistical floor cleaning robot as the Roomba. As you can see in the video the robot has two side cleaning brushes, automatic docking to charge, polyphonic chimes and a cool candy apple paint. No word on price and availability outside of South Korea at the moment. The only thing missing, to make the VC-RE70V an ideal domestic floor cleaning robot, is for it to have an auto-cleaning system of collected dust and dirt like the Karcher RC3000.



Sunday, October 12, 2008

Being a "DIY" Robot Geek and Loving It!

Steve Norris is like many of us here, a software developer during the day and "DIY" robot geek at night. Steve mixed his passion of electronics, hardware and programming into a single one called robotics. He has created many interesting robots to help him around the house and others to experiment for future more elaborate robot projects. One of them is his "Huey" color chasing robot.




This small guy was created to just follow 3 rules: 1. Always look at what it's tracking; 2. Always move toward what it's tracking; and 3. If it gets too close to what it's moving toward, back away. Though appears to be simple instructions they do appear to give way to emergent behavior that results in complex maneuvers. "Huey"has an on board CMUcam2+ that allows it to process visual data such color changes and assist in tracking objects of specific colors. Steve will most likely incorporate this feature on future robot projects. So what "DIY" robots or hacks have you created recently? Please share them with us!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Is It Easy To Make Your Robot Autonomous?

The people at Robotics Trends are offering a FREE webinar to help you out with that engineering issue. The webinar will be held on Wednesday, October 8, 2008 02:00 PM EST (GMT -04:00, New York) with Dan Kara, President, Robotics Trends and Regis Vincent, Senior Research Scientist, SRI International as the panelists. This webinar will provide a review of Karto, an SDK for robotic navigation, mapping and exploration, which enables developers of mobile robots to integrate navigation and mapping intelligence into their designs. The Karto SDK leverages three decades of leading edge research by SRI International to provide high accuracy navigation, mapping, and exploration functionality across a broad range of mobile robot platforms. Here is another chance to dip your feet into the domestic robotics development, join today!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

ARMAR The Domestic Robot Caught Washing Dishes

ARMAR seemed to be surprised when they took this picture while cleaning dishes using a dish washer of all things! This fabulous domestic robot was created by Dr. - Ing. Tamim Asfour at the Computer Science Dpt. of Universit├Ąt Karlsruhe (TH) (Germany). He has much interest in creating humanoid robots that can perform human-like services to support people in their daily lives. Practically ARMAR would be an ancestor of a "NS-5" style domestic robot from which would introduce a very flexible and fully autonomous robot to every home. ARMAR currently moves on a wheel driven platform, upper torso with 4 degrees of freedom (DOF), two human sized arms with grippers and stereo visual system. We would be pleased to see further development of ARMAR and other robots from Dr. Asfour so one day we will all enjoy owning an "NS-5" domestic robot to give a helping hand.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Participate In The Robo Development Expo 2008!

We have pointed out information on new domestic robotics, companies, technologies and even on how to get started in getting an education on robotics for FREE; but how about participating as well? On November 18-19, 2008 at Santa Clara, California - USA the Robo Development Conference & Expo 2008 will be held. It will be the first robotics industry event that will focus on design and development of domestic, service and intelligent robotic products. Here are also some very interesting tidbits that you will learn by attending this conference & expo:

  • The state of the art in design and development solutions for the production of robots and robotic technology
  • The functionality requirements and design issues that must be addressed when producing commercial robotics products
  • The latest developments and newest products among enabling robotics technology
  • What emergent technology is coming out of the lab and into the open market that could assist in the development of robotics systems
  • What is required for robots to navigate with minimal human intervention and be able to detect anomalies and deal with them effectively
  • How robots can be designed to manage limited resources, including power and computation, and use them in an efficient manner
  • The languages and operating systems, as well as hardware and software platforms, that can be utilized to optimize the design and development process, as well as deliver robust commercial products
  • How diverse, specialized robotic structures and sub functions can be integrated to optimize overall system function and achieve maximum compatibility of the parts
This Expo/Conference is a great way to get some hands on and know how in the industry of robotics no matter if you are iRobot or just Joe Blow in the garage. It is never too late to start and get into the domestic robotics technology wave.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Talking about Rovio Again?



Yeah, OK.... I know that I have written much about the much raved Rovio but here is your chance to find out if you still do not know what it is or what it does or just came out of your underground shelter to take a peek! Check out this promo video from WowWee about their latest robot. Don't get fooled, the remote video will not be like its shown here but it will not be bad either; also who will have one of these guys on top of a meeting table at work?!!! I will! Enjoy...

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Do You Want To Become A Robotics Engineer For Free?


Stanford University can get you started for FREE if you have always wished be a Robotics Engineer. Believe it or not there are kind people (Universities) out there on this planet that want to provide something for nothing! Their School of Engineering has created the Stanford Engineering Everywhere (SEE) that offer, for the first time in its history, some of their most popular engineering courses for free of charge to students and educators around planet Earth. You will only need a computer (PC or MAC) and web access in order to take these great courses. The courses will start on Fall 2008 and include the following:

Introduction to Computer Science


Artificial Intelligence


Linear Systems and Optimization


So do you want to contribute to the Domestic Robotics industry? Do you want to become the next Colin Angle (iRobot), Helen Greiner (iRobot) or Mark Tilden (Wow Wee) ? This is the time to get started, don't let this one slip away!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Do You Rovio? WowWee's Next Robot!

I have been following this great idea from WowWee since its introduction at CES2008 and finally it has started to come out at online stores. At about US$350 be the first to own this interesting and functional robot that brings WowWee and Evolution Robotics together in a single product called Rovio. What is Rovio? Practically it is you away from your home, office or whatever place you wish to have it to keep tabs from large distances. It is a robotics platform that has an onboard camara, speaker, microphone and a cool method of navigation powered by Evolution Robotics "NorthStar" system. Check your home when in vacation to make sure all is alright or check your kids, pets, grandparents or even your other robots if you wish! All via the Web by using your home WiFi; you can start two conversations with anyone at home via Rovio as well! Take a look at the following video to give you a better idea of what it can do and how big it is. Did you order one already?

Friday, September 5, 2008

iRobot Introduces New "Industrial" Floor Cleaning Robots



Just a couple of days ago, iRobot has introduced new "industrial" floor cleaning robots to the market. The Roomba 610 Professional series, a "re-designed" 500 series Roomba to take the tough job of cleaning business floors (offices, restaurants, retail store, movie theatres and even your local funeral home). Also introduced are the Roomba 562 and 532 Pet series, both as well are "re-designed" 500 series Roomba, offer the luxury of picking after your lovely pet's harry problem "more efficiently". Jump over to get the full details about these new robots. At US $600 - Roomba 562, $400 - Roomba 562 and $350 - Roomba 532 they do not make many to jump at them right away, particularly with an anemic global economy. The cold truth is that these robots are the same 500 series Roomba with minor changes to the cleaning brushes (4000 series roomba re-design), 3 arm side brush, a bigger particle/dust bin (they have removed the vacuum) to act like their "DirtDog" sweeper, an extra year of warranty and some other senseless items (case to carry accessories, extra brushes, extra particle bin, etc.). Personally this is just a marketing "wet dream", no real progress was made with these robotic floor cleaners. It is a way to get more money from the consumer in order to help their consumer devision and the company as a whole. Its hard to believe but I truly like and wish iRobot well but they need to focus on fixing real issues with their current fleet. Fix issues with 500 series Roomba with the following solutions:

  • Use of better materials on high stressed parts (use of metal bearings, metal gears, etc.)
  • Fully Automated cleaning system (learn from the Karcher RC3000)
  • Solve or massively improve the hair accumulation problem at the brush ends
  • Use of newer battery technologies (Li-ION or Lithium Polymer)
  • Provide a more reliable and efficient room "mapping" capability (learn from Evolution Robotics/WowWee Rovio)
  • Use of brass inserts on regularly replaceable parts
  • Resolve clumping of accumulated dust at the squeegee intake gap
  • Use a washable nylon meshed air filter with the option to add HEPA rated filters (learn from Microrobot UBot)
  • Provide a scalable OS and user friendly option to change the cleaning behavior to meet their needs and environment.
  • Provide a scalable hardware to meet different domestic needs (cleaning, security, web portal, virtual presence, central home systems management, etc.)
The list can go on almost for ever but you get the idea, there are many things that could be improved upon in order to have a much better and reliable product. iRobot was the first to mass produce a fairly effective cleaning robot but they could easily disappear from the market, as other technologies in the past, if they do not focus their efforts to fix known issues and/or provide much needed features to their current series of robots.




Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Tip of the Month: Make Your Own Roomba Filters

Saving hard earned money is always a great thing and more so with how the world economy is at the moment. For this month I will give you a tip on how to create your own Roomba filter with some basic tools and economical materials that will provide you with an almost endless amount of filters for your iRobot Roomba. This tip works for Roomba 4000 and 500 series robots, so jump over to get the full details on the "Visual How To".

1- Here are the following materials you will need: Scissors, Box cutter, your worn out air filter and CD sleeve material.


2- The CD Sleeve material is almost identical if not the same used by iRobot. You can find these sold at your local office supply or electronics store. I picked black colored ones but they have white as well.


3- Use the box cutter very carefully to split the two joined plastic pieces that hold down the filter. DO NOT rip/destroy the original filter and be careful not to destroy the plastic tabs that hold the filter in place (some will break but make sure not more than 2 or 3 are broken) :


4- This is how your original filter should look after separating the two pieces successfully (take a close look that you have 11 tabs in place minus some 2 or 3 that may break off):


5- Remove the original worn out filter and use it as a cookie cutter to shape the new filters from the new material (CD/DVD ROM sleeve) :


6- Place the new cut filter onto the original filter casing; align it to be just above (some material may overlap but that is no problem):


7- Press on each tab hard with both your thumb and index finger until you hear a 'snap' sound. Repeat process until you covered all 11 tabs.


8- Finally! A brand new and ready Roomba Air Filter to be used and fight those dust mites and save you money!


Hope you find this tip helpful!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

ConnectR : iRobot's Ongoing Experiment

It has been almost a year since iRobot introduced ConnectR to the world and still there is no final product to sell. Recently iRobot has been sending E-mail, to a select group of iRobot domestic robot owners, that a field test is imminent. Does this field test signify that iRobot will introduce ConnectR in early 2009? It all depends on many variables (market conditions, demand, costs, design, production, etc.) and how it can compete with the sexy looking WowWee Rovio. I hope that iRobot releases ConnectR; competition always will benefit the consumer with better and economical technologies. Let us know if you are part of this research group or have received iRobot's E-mail.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Robots That Can Really See You!


Tomaso Poggio, professor at the MIT Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences and at the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, is very close in understanding on how the human brain is able to process certain kinds of visual information from a series of pictures. Mr. Poggio and his team created a computer model that is able to quickly recognize certain kinds of complex scenes and objects with a high success rate of 70% or higher. This system turned out to be as good, if not much better, than existing computer-vision systems and can be even compared with our own visual system! This is a huge quantum leap forwards if implemented to autonomous domestic robots to help with daily tasks. No need for complicated methods to map rooms out and have it recognize hazards if something like this great visual system is used. One step closer to HAL9000 and a huge leap for the evolution of robots.

Monday, August 11, 2008

What Does Your Robot Run On?

There are new domestic robots coming each year, all of them do wonderful things to help us out but they all need some type of power to run. Many domestic robots run on batteries since they do not emit deadly fumes while running and are inexpensive to maintain. Currently three types of rechargeable batteries are found in domestic robots:

Nickel Cadmium Battery (NiCd) - One of the oldest rechargeable technologies, very inexpensive, has a low capacity, suffers from "Memory Effect" and is deadly to the environment.

Nickel-Metal Hydride Battery (NiMH) - Currently the most used, inexpensive, 50% more capacity compared to NiCd, suffers from "Memory Effect" but less noticeable and discharges faster when not in use and has a limited service compared to NiCd.

Lithium-ion Battery (LiION) - Latest commercial rechargeable technology, expensive, best energy-to-mass ratio, no "Memory Effect" and slow loss of charge when not used.

So the next time you open up your robot you will surely find one of these battery technologies. Each has its pros and cons but all provide the juice that your robot needs to get the job done. It is good to know how to take care of your batteries if you wish to extend the life as much as you can from them; I will provide some tips on a future post to help you out. There are many other interesting ways to power your robot, some mix different technologies as solar and methanol fuel cells all from which provide the fuel to run our robots for the near future!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Robots of Summer Fun : iRobot Verro



Cleaning pool robots have existed for years but iRobot has recently took swim with them. iRobot introduced the Verro to help you keep your pool clean and healthy for the family to enjoy during these hot summer days. There are three available models: Verro 100, 300 and 500 series. Each able to perform the job of pool cleaning with the following differences:

  • Verro 100: Designed to clean above ground pools, 60-90 min. cleaning time, vacuum cleaning system, 40 ft. power cable. Cost US$400
  • Verro 300: Designed to clean in-ground gunite pools, 60-90 min. cleaning time, hydro jet cleaning system, 51 ft. power cable. Cost US$700
  • Verro 500: Designed to cleaning in-ground vinyl/fiberglass/tile pools, 3 hours cleaning time, pva-brushes cleaning system, 60 ft. power cable. Cost US$1000
These robots do their job as designed at a reasonable price. What would be interesting to see is the next generation of pool cleaning robots that are self contained and fully autonomous so they can always keep your pool clean without human intervention. A Karcher RC3000 styled system but water proofed would be ideal. Next generation pool cleaning robots should be able to run on batteries, self dock charge, able to dump collected debris and able to know when to clean the pool. The technologies exists to make it happen, it is just a matter of engineering and design.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Swarm Robotics for Domestic Use




Since 2002 it is becoming more common for homes to have more than one robot doing the same task. Floor cleaning robots as the Roomba are sometimes used in packs to cover large areas to clean but the problem is that they do not work together, each has it's own algorithm and sensor input to follow so inevitably they will cover the same area more than once without providing efficiency. Swarm robotics changes this problem by having robots work together in order to perform a single task, similar to how insects as ants and bees work together. James McLurkin is on the forefront of developing distributed algorithms for swarm robots. He was the lead research scientist at iRobot when swarm robotics was being created and is predicting the use of swarm robotics for use in the home, search & rescue and scientific research (space, deep sea, AI, etc.). It would be great to see iRobot merge this technology into their future domestic robots, have them all work together in order to clean your home, secure it and make sure all is working 100%.

Monday, July 21, 2008

iRobot ConnectR Cancelled?

It will be almost a year since iRobot introduced ConnectR and nothing new has been known about it for months. iRobot still has the ConnectR posted at their official website but nothing else has been added recently. In the past month they have been conducting surveys but not necessarily for the ConnectR since they mix many unrelated questions into them. Could it be that iRobot is changing their tactics and merging the ConnectR technology into the Roomba? It could be possible since Microrobot has already done so with their Robotcam. Hope that iRobot does not give up on ConnectR but instead they should continue innovating their products and introduce new technologies into the domestic robotics market.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Reem-B at Abu Dhabi catwalk!

We have been following Reem-B for the past couple of months. This humanoid domestic robot was officially revealed at Abu Dhabi on June 11, 2008. Developed by the PAL Team from Spain, ReemB is the successor of Reem-A that introduced many advances for true humanoid service robots. Progress was made in the areas of voice Publish Postcommands, facial and object recognition, better battery technology for full physical autonomy and lift/carry strength. This group is definitely moving towards the proper direction and a step closer to create a NS-5 style robot. This is a company to keep an eye on since they may become the trend setters for domestic humanoid robotics. I wish continued success and progress to Reem-B and the PAL team!