Friday, November 21, 2008

Robo Development Show, Santa Clara

I had the good fortune to attend the Robo Development show this week. It was smaller than one would have hoped...reflecting what seems to be a continued lack of awareness by the mainstream technology community of the promise of personal robotics.

3 highlights:

Willow Garage Speech

Steve Cousins presented a compelling story to a full room. He showed the classic hockey-stick for the coming personal robotics field, describing the light manufacturing and service jobs that could be done by such devices.

The Willow Garage philosophy of “impact first” sounds fine indeed. He discussed the distributed architecture of the system, the processing power, and other great features of the device. With what seems the best team of researchers in the world, Willow Garage is a thrill to see.

Roboware E3 @ Microsoft Booth

Most of the time, I don’t cover the robots that seem like toys. But the E3 robot from Roboware, a Korean partner to Microsoft, is a very practical device. They claim it can pick up .5 kilos in a gripper, and has a internal computer running XP, accessible for external programs, with wireless net access. Scale this up a bit and it could be a much more serious robot.

Readybot Prototype In Person

Although Readybot didn’t have their own booth, one of their suppliers (Allmotion) were kind enough to let them demo. Great-looking robot, higher quality than I expected for a prototype. I spoke to Rand, one of the engineers on the project, and looked at some of their design work. His message was that the Readybot robot itself was not their main focus; the robot is just a test unit built because they couldn’t find anything else to practice on. Well, not bad for a test unit, that is all I can say.

He said the main focus of the group was application software usable on any robot hardware.

My gut reaction: Readybot is a serious contender…their approach is novel and promising.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Totota HAR

Here is another household/personal robot. Very nice, and sponsored by one of the top manufacturing firms in the world, so yes, we should be taking this very seriously.