Monday, March 30, 2009

More Human Than Human - 2009

Does the year 2019 sound familiar? How about 2029? or 2009? Well, 2019 is from the fabulous movie "Blade Runner" and 2029 is from another great movie "The Terminator". What do they have in common? Well both have Robots that look like us! OK, but 2009? Is there anything that exists like that? Heck yes!

We are definitely getting very close to it. A couple of weeks ago the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST), from Japan, introduced the HRP-4C. This 5 foot 2 inches tall robot is a very convincing humanoid looking robot. It is completely self contained with basic speech synthesis and voice recognition. Why is the HRP-4C unique? We all know Japanese fascination with female looking robots and all of them have been a static animated robot unlike the HRP-4C which is able to move around without tethers. Take a look at the video shot and judge for yourself.

Now what will make this technology move forward is what artificial intelligence is used to run these robots effectively, without it they just become a show and tell device without any realistic implementation in our day to day lives.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Tip of The Month: Know Your Roomba 500 Series Beep Codes

You should become familiar with the beep and light codes if you are a happy owner of an iRobot Roomba 500 series robot. Sometimes your tough dirt fighter will get stuck in corner and will talk to you in its "beep" and/or "light" language to help him out from a situation. Some of you may learn the 500 series "Beep" and "Light" language but I post a translation chart for the few of us who are unable to memorize it or do not wish to do so. The 500 series is the first iRobot robot floor cleaner that has some "human language" error messages but the rest are still "legacy" beep and light code language. Hope this helps you to help your little robot friend from certain problems.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Not All Floor Cleaning Robots Are Created Equal

Not all domestic floor cleaning robots are created equal. Today you are able find a plethora of floor cleaning robots that range from cheap copy cats to expensive luxury models that only a few group of people are willing to afford. But do not let price, no name brand or clones stop you from buying a good floor cleaning robot. At the end you will be looking for a robot that is effective cleaning your types of floors within your home environment. Some people have only carpet, hard floors or a mix of both; they may have pets, kids, adults with long hair or a mix of all of these; they may live in cold dry or humid tropical climates. All of these factors and their permutations will only narrow your selection of floor cleaning robots to a handful.

Sometimes a few of us purchase these robots without doing much research to only find out that we paid for something that is not effective to our needs or overpaid for many integrated gizmo that we will never use. One example is the scheduling option on a floor cleaning robot that needs to be cleaned out after each cleaning session otherwise you will face the early demise of your robot due to negligence of recommended maintenance. So why the scheduling feature if an owner has to touch the robot each time? Why purchase a great and expensive floor cleaning robot that is great on carpet if you have hard floors? I think you get my idea.

As you can see from these pictures, I compare how well a 4000 series Roomba Scheduler and a MetapoCleanmate QQ-2 are able to clean a week's worth of regular household dust under my bed. Clearly the 4000 Series Roomba Scheduler is able to clean much of the accumulated dust on a single pass while the Cleanmate QQ-2 still leaves noticeable dust behind. Does this example conclude that the Metapo Cleanmate QQ-2 is not a good floor cleaning robot? Not necessary, it depends on factors like your budget, pets, kids, long haired humans, type of floors, etc. The Cleanmate QQ-2 is able to clean off accumulated dust from your hard floors, it will take longer than a Roomba but it can do so while disinfecting it with an integrated UV light! Can the Cleanmate QQ-2 do carpets? Pickup cereal, bread crumbs, larger dirt particles? Not even close! But the Cleanmate QQ-2 will suit anyone that only has household dust to pickup, has hard floors, no kids or pets and is a fairly clean home. So when you shop for your first floor cleaning robot do your research, ask others or even ask me so you can make an informed purchase while saving some of your hard earned cash.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Cylons Currently Live Among Us

If you have not noticed, I am a huge Battlestar Galactica (BSG) fan. The new BSG series ended this past Friday (March 20, 2009) with a big bang. I had my doubts that it would end on a good note since I almost lost my interest during season 4 but Ronald D. Moore magically pulled it off with outstanding results (specifically for us domestic robot enthusiasts). So how are Cylons currently living among us? Take a look around your home, you will find them as a Roomba, Karcher RC3000, Sony Aibo, i-Sobot, Lawnbot, MindstormsNXT, etc. Humanoid domestic robots will come soon after, as seen with i-Cub, QRio, Aldebaran, Reem B and Asimo. With time they become more like humans and be "more human than human" as shown in Sci-Fi stories like Battlestar Galactica, Blade Runner and The Terminator. Will they one day revolt against their creators like shown on these Sci-Fi films? Maybe, it depends on how we create them; giving robots the capability to kill human beings is a sure way to have them one day revolt against us but there is always hope to do right thing. Artificial Intelligence and robotics will collide shortly in produce machines that will be capable to have independent thought but let us design them to continue cleaning our floors, help us explore planets and be our partners to enlightenment otherwise "all of this has happened before, and it will all happen again."

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Revenge of The Robotic Nerds!

Do they look like a group of nerds? geeks? heck yeah! But they are cool! They will be your future robot engineers, designers, vanguards of a new age of technologies that will run in your home like clockwork. This is just one group of many that have registered to take part of Dean Kamen's FIRST 2009 competition. FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) was created to ignite, inspire, provide the guiding light to young people in order to get involved in science and technology. The competition will be held on April 16-18, 2009 in Atlanta, Georgia - USA and there is still time to register your team if you are ready to show what you can succeed. Imagine what there is to see, 500 robots competing against each other in 6 different fields within 250, 000 sq. ft. of team pits and multiple activities. There will be about 10,000 young people excited to win prizes and face the challenges given to them as a team! I congratulate all of them for following their dreams, no matter if they win or loose they will all be winners in my book.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Robotics Conference and Expo 2009

For those of you interested in robotics and making or joining a business within this industry should check out the Robo Business Conference & Expo 2009. This Conference/Expo will include the following dedicated tracks:

Business Development and Investment
Learn about business development, investment and partnership opportunities in the intelligent mobile systems and robotics technology markets.

Technology and Standards
Focused on those products and standards platforms that can be employed in multiple robotic solution sets.

Security, Defense and First Responder Robotics
Sessions will review security, defense and first responder robotics product classes, as well as describe market opportunities.

Consumer Robotics
Industry experts explain the many ways your company can enter into and profit from the emerging consumer robotics market.

RoboMedicus / Healthcare Robotics
Understand the rapidly expanding market opportunity for healthcare automation, lifestyle enhancement and medical robotics products and services.

Autonomy and Mobility
Covering the latest advances in autonomy theory, technology and practice.

I know that many of you will be interested in the "Consumer Robotics" track! Is it not the reason you visit The Robo Business Conference & Expo 2009 will you to create a solid business development plan for your company or idea, develop new product categories, enhance existing product lines, form critical business alliances and discover emerging markets. This Conference & Expo will be held at Boston, Massachusetts - U.S.A. on April 15-16, 2009. Pay a visit if you live close or are just passing by to get into this growing industry and market of the 21st century.

Monday, March 9, 2009

A True Mecha "David" Is Only A Few Years Away

It is funny how sometimes life imitates Science Fiction and vice versa. A couple of posts ago a picture of two kids with their humanoid robot friend and Kubrick/Spielberg created the movie "A.i. - Artificial Intelligence" about a boy robot (Mecha) called "David". It is early 2009 and we are only a few years away from the introduction of the first human child like robot called "iCub". iCub is a research project, funded by the European Commission, to study cognition through a child-like humanoid robot. This project is open to all; the platform is openly distributed, the software is open source and they are open to new research partners (do you hear that iRobot?) and worldwide collaboration. Talk about a great ambition!

iCub is currently able to move like a human being and recognize objects. What will make this robot unique from all others is the open platform and collaboration that exists from the beginning of this project. Psychologist, software programmers, artificial intelligence experts, robotics engineers and even you can contribute to this project. A soup of thoughts and ideas will give birth to a generation of robots that are able to think on their own one day. I applaud their efforts and open door policies to make this project move forward.