Archive for the 'Robots at home' Category


it’s the season…

Ho ho ho… who wouldn’t want a robot under the christmas tree this year? I know at least a handful of different ‘bots’ that I would enjoy unwrapping, and no.. the Roxxxy is NOT one of them. Frank Tobe from The Robot Report has assumed the holliday spirit and have created a list of robot-presents for all the members of the family… He suggests:

The Robot Report’s 2010 Robotic Xmas Gifts Picks List:

… For all ages: Parrot’s AR.Drone iPhone-controlled quadcopter.
… For Mom: a robotic vacuum from Neato or iRobot.
… For Dad: the adaptive cruise control option for his new car.
… For Grandparents and their grandkids: Pleo, the baby dinosaur.
… For little kids: Zhu Zhu pets.
… For pre-teen boys: RoboRaptor.
… For pre-teen girls: Bossa Nova’s Penbo robot and her baby Bebe.
… For robotically-interested 10 yo and older: LEGO Mindstorm robot kit.

I highly recommend you subscribe to his newsletter if you are interested in robot technology. Mr. Tobe has quite a lot of experience with robots, and his newsletter is alway interesting to read.


A little lower please…

One of the few perks of being hospitalized is the sponge baths by beautiful nurses… I admit I have never tried it myself, but maybe that makes the thought even more appeling.

Now I could understand if a japanese company would come up with a sponge bath giving robot, since a lot of japanese people can be a little shy, but the americans came first. Georgia Institute of Technology have developed ‘a robot nurse’ that can give you a sponge bath. Compared to the airflow robot shower that will wash you all over with steam, soap and water, this is a probably further away from being used in real life, since the robot is able to wash the area of the patient pointed out by the operator… later it will probably be able to decide what parts to wash – or it could be equipped with an interface (eg. by speech recognition) so that you could control it yourself. Then I can see some real scenarious for use in daily life…. and the vivid imagination can think of other applications, but we will leave that to the more dubious companies in the robotics industry.

Read more about the sponge-o-bot at gizmag by clicking the picture.


When I get older…

Beatles asked a relevante question in their song “When I’m 64” – will you still care for me when I get older. If we give this question a reality-twist into the everyday we expect in a not so distant future – it becomes even more relevant. Many nations with Japan in a leading postion and Denmark closing in rapidly will shortly be forced to deal with the question of how to take care of those that require care and atention due to age or disabilities.

In this blog I have mentioned a number of robot technologies that are relevant in this area. The Airwater human ‘car wash’ shower robot for example and the robots created by RoboVieII and the TMSUK remote controlled shopping robots.

In Japan last november I experienced many interesting robot prototypes at places like the Panasonics development Lab and the University Hospital of Gifu. These are places where they develop robots that help us do the daily tasks with as little human help as possible, and that seems to be one way the robots are going. Our physical needs will clearly to a ever increasing level be taken care of by robots instead of by humans – thus freeing ressources for other tasks.

The other direction that robot technology take in the area of care taking is within the area of adressing our need for interaction with another intelligent beeing. Our social needs. The most notable example of a robot in this line of caretaking is seen with the Paro Robotic Seal. This is desribed further in this article from GizMag. Paro interacts with people that for example suffer from dementia by uttering small southing noices, expressing needs and providing comforting company. Like a puppy but without the messy details.

However for those of us that are still functioning in a way where we prefer social interaction with human beings the companies ZMP and TMSUK provide robots that will be the mechanical representation of your loved ones. For example by being an autonoumous telephone that will find you in your house when somebody calls you, or that will call for help if you are not responding to its signals as should be expected. This ties closely into the whole concept of the intelligent caretaking house with electronic beds that monitors your behaviour and strike an alarm if your pattern changes beyond the acceptable.

I have also described the Funktionoide create by Festo. A ‘blob’ or slug-like robotic creature that will provide some sort of companion in your house.

Now all of these different robots that are supposed to solve our social needs are the results of experiments designed to find the right mix between technology vs. organic design and human vs. artificial interaction. Some of them have as a purpose to create a situation as close to what we know as possible – others to create a completely new experience.

Right now – at the adult industries fair – a robot is being introduced to the market which tries to emulate real human interaction as closely as possible. Just google Roxxxy and see what I am taling about.

In conclusion – two areas of robots are being developed now: Robots to help us in the everyday tasks and robots to help us experience social interaction.

Within these areas extensive research is going on to find out how to create the proper blend between technology and naturelike experiences.

It is my prediction that this area is going to explode within the next couple of years.


Will it do my gift swapping too?

I have been asking for new ways to use robots at home – and it seems a trend is to have your robots perform tasks for those of us, that cannot do them ourselves. In Japan at the International Robot Exhibition in November I saw a number of such robots. My general impresssion was that they lack a lot of work before really becomming a practical help at home. Yes a robot can be asked to pick up a can of green tea/ a bottle of juice/ a can of beer or whatever in the fridge – companies such as Frauenhofer, TMSUK and many others had robots exhibited that could do this, but a common trait was that it requires a LOT of patience to wait for the stuff to be deliverede, and the ability for the robots to adabt to changes are still not quite convinsing.

The latest of such trends in personal robotics seems to be to have the robots do our shopping. Personally I could have used that during December when the flu, work and natural procrastination kept me out of the christmas shopping game until the very latest moment. But frankly I still think it would take far more time to program the damn thing to know what to pick up, than it would to just go out and get it done.

The RoboVieII for example helps elderly people do the shopping – but it requires you to enter your grocery list by phone and transmit it to the robot. In the video of the robot it is shown to follow a 67 years old lady around the shop. carrying the groceries and offering suggestions as to what to buy – I just still don’t see it as a great help. The customer has to wait for the robot on several occasions and – my limited japaneses taken into account – as far as I can tell it is dispensing pleasantries and small talk rather than actually giving valuable suggestions.

TMSUK has a different approach where they let one of their robots be controlled from the home by telephone connection, so that an elderly woman can stay at home and let the robot go to the department store with her grand daughter – it still seems a bit strange to me to create such a remote controlled physical being which is slow, and requires just about as much attention and help as a person in a wheelchair. In stead shopping from a website or having a selection of hats brought to you home seems like a much easier way to go, and it is hard for me to see the extra benefit you get from using a robot as your stand-in.

The concept is nice, but in my opinion a lot of work is needed before this type of robot will actually be a help. For example you can add a ‘touch-and-smell-printer’ so that you can stay at home, and still touch and smell the apples before you choose them – or the robots can be turned into completely authonomous shoppers without the inclination to do impulse buying.

When a robt one day can actually be let loose to do your shopping by itself – then it will be a help – until then I will prefer to go shopping by myself – if not for any other reason then just so that I can taste all the free samples myself.

Inspiration: Gizmag


The final factor

I stumbled across a post about ASUS issuing a robot vacuum cleaner for domestic use – and this time it features pretty much the same things as all the other robots of this type – plus an UV lamp to sterilize those extra dirty spots. It also features a somewhat more fancy look than what we have been used to from iRobot and the other players in this field.

The good news is that the technology is now becomming so accepted that competition will help develop robots for domestic use – the bad news is, that the extra features are not exactly giant leaps in functionality, human/robot interaction or application possibilities. Personally I long for a revoloution in the way we use robots at home – but until then a new look is at welcome change. Read more here:


Safest car in the world – for the pedestrian

As a follow up on my blog on the Nissan school-of-fish car controlling robots I thought the news of Volvo creating a car that ‘will break for people’ is quite relevant. In the DARPA projects there have been put a lot of work into creating cars that can navigate by themselves, and drive acordingly to the traffic around them – but with the experiments carried out by Volvo some is this authonomy is being build into a product available for everybody (that is who can afford a brand new S60).

In short the car is equipped with a camera that is able to detect and identify moving objects around the car. If an object should happen to be a humanbeing on what is expected to be a collision course – then the Heads Up Display (coool technolgy) wil light up and a warning signal will alert the driver. If the driver dosen’t react within a short timeframe, then the car itself will come to a halt as quickly as possible. At higher speeds the system is intended to reduce speed at impact rather than completely stop.

This has the potential to save the life of quite a few pedestrians – I just wonder how well it does with people on bicykles.

Read more about this great step towards turning the regular car into a semi-robot-car (in danish) by clicking this link (via Ingeniøren)


100.000$ shower?

A lot of effort is being put into reducing the labor intesive tasks when it comes to taking care of the elderly and disabled – and so far robots have primarily been used in this area for vacuuming and for interaction (Paro). Now it seems though that we will kick it into a higher gear in Denmark.

One shower pod have been bought for experiments in Horsens, Denmark, and we are anxious waiting for the results. The robot is – of course – created in Japan.

While people of the newer generations might welcome this new contraption – it might prove to be too scary for the average elderly person, however a 1000 units are supposedly in use in Japan as of right now.

Read more about this (in Danish) by pressing this link.