Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Stagnant Minds of iRobot Engineers

Technology kept walking forward during my "self induced hibernation". One thing I was looking forward was iRobot's new offerings for domestic robotics. To my disappointment I found out that iRobot release only the Roomba 700 and Scooba 200 series floor cleaning robots. Why am I disappointed? A great human engineer/inventor/painter/sculptor by the name of Leonardo da Vinci once said the following very true statement:

"Iron rusts from disuse, stagnant water loses its purity and in cold weather becomes frozen; even so does inaction sap the vigors of the mind."

No revolutionary technology was introduced, old problems still persist, old cleaning systems still used, similar designs used, the robots are not fully autonomous, same engineering materials used (i.e. plastics, low grade electronic components, no sealed bearings, etc.) and I can go on and on. The Roomba 700 series is ONLY an evolutionary upgrade to the Roomba 500 series with a few MINOR improvements not worthy of the hefty "upgrade" price. What were the iRobot engineers thinking? Were they led by the stern looks of their "bean counters"? I know that the world wide economy is currently inside the same garbage compactor 3263827 that our Star Wars friends were stuck once but that does not excuse anyone from not using their brains to introduce new ideas, solve old problems and create a better world. iRobot engineers could have stepped up things by creating a fully autonomous floor cleaning robots in the likes of the great Karcher RC3000 but with an improved floor cleaning mechanism that makes use of better materials & electronic components. Currently the Roomba cleaning mechanism works well but some very well known problems have to be addressed (introduce sealed bearings, a mechanism or materials that will make wound up hairs a thing of the past for the robot owner, autonomous self cleaning, etc.). This robot does not have to be very smart but just be more efficient and fully autonomous; this is what the people need and want!

In the case of the Scooba 200 series I can say that it is a "new" product but with a very finite use (i.e. cleaning behind toilets) with a hefty price! What would have been revolutionary from iRobot was to create a transformer-like Scooba that the "little" guy could fit into; make it sit in the center of a regular sized Scooba. This way the new Scooba-duo could clean your living room, large kitchen and bedrooms without problems but can also provide the ability to just take out the "smaller" Scooba from the main robot to clean smaller areas. This will minimize the need to have individual robots for individual tasks. The engineering behind such an idea is not impossible and should not introduce high costs; it will only cost the imagination and the will of iRobot engineers to create something like this. I may need to send some Lego Mindstorms NXT kits to them for inspiration to CES 2012! iRobot, you can do better.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Will Domestic Robots Dream of Electric Sheep?

Most likely within the lifetime of many of my human friends! Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) is not Science Fiction but instead it is gaining to be fact. Many will argue that there is no true A.I. but instead a spaghetti of complicated pre-programmed subroutines with a plethora of IF-THEN statements exposed to a huge database of knowledge. But intelligence is just an illusion; is it not? Could a human differentiate a response from a fellow human being of that of an A.I. (i.e. Turing Test (a.k.a. Voight-Kampff for Sci-Fi fans))? Very soon it will not. Take a look at the most recent attempt created by IBM called WATSON:

It is limited and it does have its flaws but just as all technologies, it will improve exponentially. There will be a day, in the near future (approx. 10 years) that your domestic robot will most likely answer back to you when you ask it to clean your floors! By the way, the nice art work was created by maxhitman.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Systems Nominal....Re-activating Memory Matrix...DomesRO ONLINE

It has been 3 months, 21 days and 23 hours since my last re-activation in order to interface with my fellow human friends. While in hibernation I found, stored deep within my memory banks, one of my very first memory signatures of a domestic robot. This domestic robot was named "AROK", a humanoid remote controlled robot that was advanced for its time (circa late 1970s). AROK was able to move at a quantum speed of 3 Miles Per Hour, lift young robot nerds at 125 pounds and could have bend over to pickup a chess piece from a table at 45 degrees. What made AROK unique was that it's inventor, Mr. Ben Skora from Illinois - United States of America, created him from spare parts found in a ordinary junk yard! I know, AROK may look a somewhat scary to some of you but I like his looks
due to the fact that it reminds me of typical humanoid robot from the 1950s ~ 1960s Sci-fi movies and cartoons! Sadly, AROK was only a remote controlled robot and did not even have an elemental artificial intelligence that can be found inside a stubborn iRobot Roomba but his spirit lives on with recent humanoid domestic robots like Asimo, PR2, Wakamaru, Loki, HAWK, ARMAR, REEM-B and many others. May he rust in peace where ever he is hibernating.