Friday Gadget: The BIOSwimmer Fish Robot

BioSwimmer1The Biomimetic In-Oil Swimmer (BIO-Swimmer) is an robotic fish that has been under development the last 4-5 years by Boston Engineering Corporation’s Advanced Systems Group in Waltham, MA, for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is tasked with uncovering attempts to damage, disrupt, or illegally use the flow of commerce; without detection.  As you can imagine, this is a challenging process.  With regard to waterways, a balance needs to be maintained between monitoring ports, rivers and other waterways without slowing commerce.  The BIOSwimmer is being developed to help the U.S. secure and protect these very waterways.  It is a fish-inspired (it looks like a Tuna) robot that can be deployed rapidly.  It is designed to maneuver into locations previously inaccessible to current robots and provide security intelligence far beyond current capability.

The robot is a hybrid of the design features of a regular submarine (i.e. dive planes, thruster-powered locomotion, and a rigid hull) combined with the flexible keel of a fish.  The tuna is used as a biological model because its natural swimming gait holds the front 2/3 of the fish’s body rigid, while the rear 1/3 moves; this allows the robot to utilize the front 2/3 of its body as a rigid, watertight hull, while the rear 1/3 is converted into a flooded flexible structure. The robot uses hydraulic actuators to move the flexible tail structure from side to side and electric motors for dive plane control.

It is a drone that is controlled via laptop-based system, so it requires a human operator.  It uses an onboard camera and computer suite for navigation, sensor processing, and communications.  It has onboard sensors which are designed for the challenging environment of constricted spaces and high viscosity fluids that are found in crowded and active ports on our waterways.   

All this capability produces a robotic fish-inspired drone that can both move through the water quickly and turn on a dime, a set of traits not usually seen together in underwater vehicles of any type. 

The BIOSwimmer will be expected to perform tasks like conducting ship hull inspections; performing search and rescue missions; and checking cargo holds that may have toxic fluids.   It can inspect the interior voids of ships such as flooded bilges and tanks, and hard to reach external areas such as steerage, propulsion and sea chests.  It can also inspect and protect harbors and piers, perform area searches and carry out other security missions. 

Friday Gadget: Concepts for Future Glass Display Applications

I took a few weeks off from Friday Gadget posts as I was on my spring break with my family.  This week I am back with a post the future of displays.

The post today features a concept video from Corning Glass that is actually a couple of years old.  The video is a montage from its “A Day Made of Glass” series of videos that they created in 2011 and 2012.   Even though the video montage I am sharing below was made a couple of years ago, it is very, very relevant today.  The video provides us with a fantastic view of the potential futures of applications that involve glass displays.    Even if you have seen the videos, its worth another look. 

The video was produced to share Corning’s vision on how glass will help create a more connected, collaborative, and interactive world.  The video features a family of four going about a “normal day,” aided by glass-pane tablets and touchscreen walls. But the latest video reveals an even broader view of the role specialty glass could play in the “near future,” reaching out of the home and into hospitals, schools, even parks.

The video is embedded below and is 5 minutes in length.  I guarantee it is worth the time.  It will really get you thinking about how we might interact with information in the future.  As you watch the video, think about the emerging “3rd” computing platform that is made up of technologies like big data, analytics, data visualization, cloud computing, social business, mobile computing, wearables, internet of things, cognitive computing, and human computer interaction.  The video does a great job of showing how all those technologies, when fully integrated into solutions and services, can make a significant impact in our lives.

Corning is, of course, very much focused on selling the future of glass.  Their stated vision is “Interactive glass surfaces, seamless delivery of real-time information, and technologies that enrich your life”.  The company creates and makes specialty glasses that are critical components within the concept products shown in the videos.   The vivid displays, durable touch surfaces, or instant, real-time communications shown in the videos, each require some form of specialty glass.   Learn more about Corning’s innovations in glass.

Friday Gadget: The MAB Automated Cleaning System for your house

Gadget - MAB - Automatic Cleaning SystemIn my house, I am the one usually dusting, cleaning, and vacuuming.  It’s not that I like doing the cleaning…it’s just that the other family members never seem to do be interested in having a clean house.   So this Friday’s Gadget post is one that I really like as it paint’s a future where I don’t have to do the cleaning.  

The automated robotic cleaning concept system called MAB, relies on flying mini-robots.   The concept won the 2013 Electrolux Design Lab Competition.  Check out the video below.

The ‘Mab’ automated cleaning system uses hundreds of tiny robots that fly around and collect dust and dirt.   Designer Adrian Perez Zapata says he created the system with the idea that he could  free the human race from the tedious task of cleaning.  In his Mab design, micro-robots do the work to clean every surface of your house while you sit back and relax.   I love that idea. 

Here’s how his Mab concept works.  Think of the Mab core unit as like a beehive and the flying robots as the bees.  In this case, hundreds of tiny flying robots are loaded with drops of water mixed with soap.  The Mab core unit scans the room, identifies dimensions and potential problem areas.  It then releases the flying robots to clean.  As the robots touch surfaces, the cleaning fluid picks up dirt and then the flying robot returns it to the central unit.  Back at the Mab Core unit, the dirt is filtered out from the liquid, which is then then cycled through the Mab core unit for reuse.

 

 

Embedded in Adrian’s design concept is that the Mab could be powered through wireless energy or solar energy.   He also says the wings of each robot could have solar panels to collect energy.

Just think…in the future you may never have to clean again

Friday Gadget: Future Wearable Devices and Design Concepts

As mentioned in my post Friday Gadget: Rapport Device Detects and Reacts to Human Emotions I am resurrecting my series of Friday Gadget posts.

As I have been researching Wearables this past month, I thought I would provide a post about concept designs for future wearables

There is a ton of work going on by designers to make wearables more fashionable and functional.  The future looks bright for wearables!

Friday Gadget: Rapport Device Detects and Reacts to Human Emotions

I’ve decided to bring back the Friday Gadget posts after a very long absence. 

I am not really a gadget guy, but I do like to think about what types of products future generations will have that will make their life easier and think about how emerging technologies will be a part of our lives in the future. When I first started blogging back in 2006, every Friday I would post about a concept for a future technology or gadget.   The series of posts were designed to help us all take a step back on a Friday, have a little fun, and help us all imagine how technology can disrupt the future. 

So I am bringing back the Friday Gadget posts.  I am not sure how long the series will last this time, but we will have fun with it while it lasts…

For this first new post , I found a project team that asked the question:  What if your gadgets knew how you were feeling and could then respond appropriately?   A group of designers developed a device they call Rapport that can observe, analyze and react to your facial expressions in order to select a music playlist that suits you the best.  Once you make eye contact with the device, it leans forward and analyzes your facial expression. Taking into account the time of day, it selects a song that it feels might suit your current mood.   The Rapport device starts the playback of the song at a fairly low volume, but will boost the volume if it sees you smiling or excited.

Under the covers, the team utilized 4 different software programs including Visual Studio (stores the facial recognition library and eye tracking code), Processing (runs the facial recognition library), Max/Msp(controls volume and curates music) and Arduino (drives the stepper motors inside the device).

Potential initial applications could include smart homes, retirement homes, entertainment events, and education.  In the future, application developers will utilize emotion detection systems to design robots that understand how better to interact with humans.   Over time robots could learn to understand how different humans react emotionally and treat each person differently based on both visual and auditory inputs. 

For more, check out these resources:   1) Rapport Introduction (Youtube), 2) Rapport Demonstration (YouTube), 3) Emotional Intelligence (Yanko Design), 4) Feeling the Music;  Gadget Reads Emotions to Choose Songs (Gajitz)

IBM Research’s “5 in 5” list for 2012 Features Cognitive Computing

5 in 5 Every year about this time, IBM Research has been publishing an annual list called “Next 5 in 5” which provides predictions about five emerging technologies that IBM feels will impact our lives in five years.

Today IBM released it’s list for this year and it features an enabling and emerging technology called cognitive computing.

This year’s “Next 5 in 5” cover how computers will enhance the human senses of  Sight, Touch, Hearing, Smell and Taste.    A brief summary of the five predictions are below, along with links to more detail.

  1. Sight: A pixel will be worth a thousand words. There is a lot of work going on in that area of visualization and imaging analytics technology.  IBM says that computers will be able to analyze and act upon large volumes of visual streams of information to help us make better decisions.  Read more at IBM 5 in 5 2012: Sight
  2. Touch:  You will be able to touch through your phone.  Imagine being able to feel the texture in fabric over a mobile screen.  IBM Research says that haptic, infrared, and vibration technologies will enable a touchscreen to simulate the physical sensation of touching something.  Read more at IBM 5 in 5 2012:  Touch
  3. Hearing: Computers will hear what matters.   IBM says that embedded sensors will pick up sound patterns and frequency changes and then advanced algorithms embedded in apps will be able to understand and predict events before they occur….allowing for better decisions and communications in real-time.  Read more at IBM 5 in 5 2012: Hearing
  4. Smell: Computers will have a sense of smell.   In the future, sensors in a smartphone will be able to detect and distinguish different odors.  Mobile apps will be able to analyze these odors (chemicals, biomarkers, molecules) and provide insights and recommendations back to the smartphone user.  Read more at IBM 5 in 5 2012: Smell
  5. Taste: Digital taste buds will help you eat smarter.   IBM Research says that in the future computers will be able to develop new recipes and meals by using a the molecular structure of foods to optimize flavors and nutrition.   Read more at IBM 5 in 5 2012: Taste

In my mind…the list represents an interesting set of predictions foreshadowing how in the future 1) computers will be able to give people back senses they may have lost (or never had) and 2) robots will have the ability to simulate human senses.  However, there are many other potential applications of the technologies that we can imagine that will benefit corporations, governments, and consumers.  For example, firemen responding to a fire in a manufacturing plant will have mobile devices that help them understand if there are any toxic gases.  Police departments will be able to listen for patterns in gang neighborhoods to anticipate when and where skirmishes might happen. Automobiles will have embedded capability on board to detect problems with the engine based on sound patterns.  Consumers shopping online will be able to ‘touch’ the fabric of of a sweater before buying.

For more information…

Consumerization of IT / BYOD: IBM Websites, White Papers and Reports

byod Business Professionals are in fact consumers.  And consumers today have more choice, more flexibily, and more options in the devices that they use to access the Internet every day, including smartphones, tablets, and personal laptops.   Consumers are using these devices to access the new applications and social networks that they use to connect with each other for both personal and business reasons.  As that technology spills over into their professional lives, the line between the personal and the professional is blurring.

It’s no surprise that Business Professionals want to use the same technology at work as they use at home.    However, while consumer technology offers some great potential benefits for the business, it also represents added risk in terms of security, privacy, and compliance.  So IT leaders need to strike a balance between the desires of users and the requirements of the enterprise.

IBM has a bunch of content available to for you to learn more about this trend.  Below you will find links to the most current IBM reports, websites, and social accounts related to the social business trend.  The reports and sites listed below are all hotlinked.  If you see something that is missing, let me know and I will revise this post.

BYOD-Related Websites by IBM

BYOD-Related Social Media Sites

BYOD-Related IBM White Papers and Reports

BYOD-Related IBM Presentations

Yankee Research: 2013 Mobile Predictions

Yankee I attended the Yankee Research annual 2013 Mobile Predictions webinar yesterday.   Four analysts presented a total of ten predictions during the webinar.  The overall message was that the mobile ecosystem, which includes devices, applications, networks, mobile transactions, etc., will continues to grow in 2013.  There is an ever-increasing global consumer and business demand for mobile capabilities and the providers in the mobile ecosystem are all trying to meet that demand.  The market is by no means mature so there is lots of disruption as providers try to deliver products and services that are valued in the marketplace. 

The following four mobile industry experts from Yankee Research provided their thoughts on the top ten predictions for 2013

1.  Operators will lose US$1 Billion per month in voice/messaging revenue in 2013.   Yankee says that changes in mobile offerings, customer behavior and the mobile industry in general will result in a significant drop in voice / messaging revenue.  However, Yankee says that fortunately the loss will be offset by a boost in data and that going forward, winners will be those providers that launch their own apps that focus on data streams.

2. By year end, all mobile operators will be either “digital lifestyle solution providers” or a “digital value bit ‘mover’ providers”.  Both strategies are valid but ruled by different dynamics and Yankee believes that providers must pick one or the other strategy.  For Digital Lifestyle, the market will start segmenting as providers offer mobile solutions for different types of people who have different needs.   Winners will be big global players and startups that develop creative approaches to generating incremental revenue.  Losers will be those providers that don’t realize that they need to act now to carve out new business units.  Also, operators that kill margins with high marketing and device subsidy costs will be on the loosing end.

3.Small cells will stumble.   2014 will be a better year than 2013 for small cell providers.  Tariffs influencing end-users to avoid mobile broadband for video will strip much of the economic rationale for extensive small cell deployment in the near term, calling into question expectations for rapid market uptake.   Suppliers need to expand their focus on standards.  Operators should continue to experiment with small cells.   Winners will be large scale firms that can handle both macro and micro offerings like Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson, Huawai and Nokia Siemens Networks.  Losers will be smaller firms like Pure Wave and ip.access

4.  At least one operator will launch turbo-boosting service in 2013.  Data and analytics will drive new offerings.  As more operators look to real time analytics tied to network data to speed the creation, delivery and monetization of unique product and service bundles, they will begin to learn from customer expectations and be able to track monitor and respond to any change.  As a result they will embark on new services, such as turbo-boosting, enabled by insight drawn from the advanced analytics.   Winners will be vendor who can enable real-time data analytics like Nokia Siemens Networks, Openet, Medio Systems, Amdocs, AT&T, Verizon and Orange.   Losers will be firms like Teradata, Oracle and SAP who don’t have real-time analytics capability

5.  By year end Google will start subsidizing Mobile Payments Credit/Debit Transaction Fees.    Expect some shifts in the mobile payments industry in 2013 as Google enters the mix with it’s strong advertising capabilities.  In 2013, Google needs to find ways to entice merchants to accept its mobile wallet solution.  Paying merchant transaction fees (from it’s advertising revenue stream) could prove to be very persuasive.   If this does happen, it will disrupt the current payment ecosystem.  Winners will be Google.   Losers will be current providers PayPal, LevelUp, Square and Isis who can not scale up.

6.  A cloud based mobile payment system will see a significant data breach in 2013.   Criminals are waiting in the wings waiting for the right opportunity to exploit mobile.  So far attacks have been muted only due to the lack of scale.  Yankee sees a perfect storm in 2013 caused by ubiquitous Smartphone usage, 24×7 connected devices and consumer naiveté.  Yankee predicts at least one of the major mobile payment schemes will fall prey to a successful hack.  Yankee says the victim will most likely be a cloud player since it presents criminals with them most lucrative risk/reward ratio.   Winners will be the criminals (at least in the short term).  Losers will be the consumers, merchants, and the payments industry overall.  Consumer education will be key to overcome this threat.

7.  More than 50% of Companies look to the cloud for their mobile app developments.  Cloud continues to be an important trend.  Yankee says that demand side pressures and supply-side innovations are accelerating enterprise deployments of mobile applications in the cloud.  Next year, Yankee expects the majority of enterprises will be deploying their applications using software as a service (SaaS) as opposed to on-premise software.  Winners will be companies with mobile strategies in place, cloud app providers, and mobile cloud platform providers and developers.   Losers will be enterprises and vendors without a cloud strategy.

8.  Microsoft Windows store will abandon 70-30 split and registration fees in 2013.  In 2013, competition between the app storefronts will turn red hot and Yankee expects Microsoft will be a big player.  Yankee says Microsoft will entice developers to its store by breaking with the standard app store-to-developer business terms.   Winner will be MS, Losers could be Google and independent app stores. 

9.  2013 will mark the first year that Android Smartphone market share will decline in the U.S.   Stronger competition from Apple, MS, and even RIM will result in pressure on the Android market including devices and developers.  Yankee says growth in the Android marketplace will slow and even decline in 2013.  Winners will be Apple & MS.  Losers will be those in the Android ecosystem.

10.  In 2013 M2M Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNO)s will feel the squeeze as operators get serious about machine to machine (M2M) market.  As Tier 1 operators ratchet up their attention on M2M networks to help drive new revenue, specialist MVNOs will feel the heat as they evolve from friend into foe.  Expect some smaller MVNOs to be acquired.   Winners will be the larger scale firms like AT&T, Verizon, Deutsche Telkom, Sprint, Orange, Vodafone, China Mobile and Telefonica.  Losers will be the smaller upstarts like Aeris Communications, CrossBridge Solutions, M2M DataSmart, Numerex, Wyless and Kore Telematics

A more detailed report is  be available from Yankee Research.  Registration for the report is at http://web.yankeegroup.com/report2013predictionsregistration.html.  I’d also recommend checking out the Yankee Research blog at http://blogs.yankeegroup.com/ for mobile ecosystem insights and news.

Gartner: Top 10 Business Apps for Tablets

gartner logo Gartner says worldwide media tablet sales to end users will total 63.6 million units in 2011, a 261.4 percent increase from 2010 sales of 17.6 million units.  Yes…that says 261%!!.

As consumers increasingly buy these devices they inevitably start bringing them to work, pushing the adoption of business applications for tablets.   Gartner expects this adoption to increase substantially over the next few years as businesses start rolling out enterprise applications that support major business initiatives.

According to Gartner, the top 10 commercial business application categories for tablet devices are:

  1. Sales Automation.  Sales automation systems for customer collateral, sales presentations, and ordering systems
  2. Business intelligence.  Analytical and performance applications with management dashboards
  3. Email.  Containerized email to separate corporate messaging environments from personal email
  4. Collaboration.  Collaboration applications for meetings
  5. File Utilities.  For sharing and document distribution
  6. Business Processes.  General corporate/government enterprise applications for CRM, ERP, SCM and messaging
  7. Healthcare.  Medical support systems for doctors, nurses, and physical therapists
  8. Desktop Virtualization.  Hosted virtual desktop agents to provide secure remote operations of traditional desktop applications and environments
  9. Social Media.  Social networking applications with intelligent business insight
  10. Board Books.  For secure document and report distribution

For more detail on Gartner’s thoughts on this subject, see it’s press release “Gartner Identifies Top 10 Commercial Business Applications for Tablet Devices

Friday Gadget: Robonaut 2

Robonaut 2 (R2), a robot developed by General Motors and NASA, is scheduled to hitch a ride to the Space Station via the shuttle Discovery this September. 

The robot not only looks like a human but also is designed to work like one.  With human-like hands and arms, R2 is able to use the same tools station crew members use.

For the mission in September, engineers plan to monitor him closely to see how he operates in weightlessness.  Plans eventually call for R2 to perform tasks that would normally require astronauts to take spacewalks.  The hope is that at some point in the future robots will be able to perform spacewalks and other tasks too difficult or dangerous for humans.  For now, R2 is still a prototype and does not have adequate protection needed to exist outside the space station in the extreme temperatures of space.

For more, check out the page on Robonaut at http://robonaut.jsc.nasa.gov/

Friday Gadget: Rotundus Robot

The GroundBot has been around a few years, but I thought I’d feature it this Friday. Groundbot is a spherical shaped robot that can roll up to 6 mph through indoor and outdoor spaces with relative ease.  In fact, outside it can roll through mud, sand, snow and even water.   Inside the ‘ball’ two gyroscopically steadied wide-angle cameras along with a bunch of sensors provides people monitoring the cameras with a real-time, 360-degree view of wherever the GroundBot happens to be.  Remote operators can use the cameras to zoom in on anything they may see.  Sensors also can detect gas leaks, radioactivity and biohazards.

To get rolling, the robot simply shifts its weight. Its center of mass is suspended from a pendulum inside the sphere, so motors just push the pendulum to the front, to the back, or to the side.   Lithium-ion batteries provide up to 16 hours of spy time.  GroundBot can be remote controlled by hand or programmed to navigate by GPS. 

GroundBot can effectively increase security and cuts costs at places such as airports, factories, warehouses, etc.   Check out this video from Popular Science and you’ll the Groundbot actually rolling through water.

For more on the GroundBot, see the website:  http://www.rotundus.se/video.html  and there are more videos at http://www.youtube.com/user/RotundusRobotics

A Primer on the Consumer Market for Household Robots

Slide2 This primer on Personal Robots is meant to be a quick introduction of the trend towards personal robotics – a trend that will have a significant impact on our lives in this and future centuries.  I’ve previously authored primers on other emerging trend and technology topics…for those check out my category “Primers”.

Little by little we are all starting to share more of our space with robots as prices drop and new innovative technology makes its way into new robotic products that are designed to make our lives easier, more fun, and safer.  Yes, adoption of personal robots is beginning to ramp up.  My house now has two Roombas (one upstairs, one downstairs).  While I still like to use a traditional vacuum as I know the carpets get cleaner, my wife and kids love the Roombas as they can turn it on, leave the room, and let it do its job while they do other things.  Both my parents and my in-laws also have Roombas and they absolutely love them.

Market Environment 

The concept of a machine that performs tasks normally done by humans has captured the imagination of people throughout the ages.  The term robot describes a machine that performs programmed tasks normally performed by humans, while robotics refers to the design, construction, and use of robots.  A robot does not need to be in human form, nor does it need to be controlled remotely. 

The toy market is where allot of the action is at these days.  Robotic technology is increasingly being embedded into all sorts of toys from dinosaurs to plush toys.  Entertainment robots have expanded in capability and fallen in price as well.  There are robotic toys for entertainment, such as the Pleo, the Prime-8 Gorilla, and the Lego Mindstorms line of toys robotic companions.  

However, there is a significant personal robot market waiting to be developed beyond just toys and entertainment…a wider range of task robots are already on the market like Paro the harbor seal, that comfort the elderly.   Household robots that perform chores, provide entertainment and monitor home security have become increasingly prevalent over the last few years.  Personal Robots are being used for tasks like vacuuming.  There are also robotic lawn mowers, duct cleaners, surveillance systems, and alarm clocks. 

I found the following video that provides an overview of some of the latest consumer robot enhancements.  While I found the video a little dry and the focus is more on entertainment robots, it does gives you a feel for what is new in 2010.

Market Opportunity

As evidence that there is a market for consumer and household robots beyond just toys, the iRobot Corp published a press release in January 2010 that indicated it has sold more than 5 million Roombas (home robot vacuums) worldwide since 2002.  As I mentioned above, I have two of those Roombas in my house alone.

Projections about the overall market opportunity for personal robots range dramatically.  According to a 2009 report by ABI Research, by the year 2015 personal robot sales in the U.S. will exceed $5B.  The report, Personal Robotics 2009: Task, Security & Surveillance/Telepresence, Entertainment and Education Robot, and Robotic Components Markets Through 2015  found that the personal robotics market will quadruple from 2009-2015, when worldwide shipments will be valued at $5.26 billion.  ABI defines personal robots as those robots that perform tasks for consumers that usually have something to do with security, a simple household chore, entertainment, or education.  ABI’s report singles out North America as the largest market for personal robots right now, followed by Japan (where the culture embraces robots) and the rest of AP. 

Market Drivers / Inhibitors

The growth in the market for personal and household robots will be driven by a number of factors.

  • Toys/Entertainment:  The toy/entertainment mass market, with its lower price point, will continue to grow and is the place where many companies experimenting in robotic technology will have success in the short term.
  • The 4 D's:  Consumers will be interested in buying robots that can help them do any task that has one of the ‘4D’ components – Dirty, Dangerous, Dull, and/or Difficult. 
  • Better technology:  Improvements in hardware, software, and design allow for enhanced robot applications.
  • Reduced prices:  Personal robots prices will continue to drop as 1) component prices drop and 2) demand for robots increases
  • Skills shortages:  As skill shortages happen, robots can assist and even boost productivity.

Inhibitors to rapid growth include cost justification, the current economic environment, limited performance, and fear, uncertainty, and doubt factors related to the use of robots. 

Technology

Major developments in microelectronics, (sensors/actuators), analytics software, and computer technology have led to significant advances in robotics.  The underlying technology in a robot contains some of all of the following components.

  • A physical device capable of interacting with its environment.  This would include sensors on or around the device that are able to sense the environment and give useful feedback to the device.
  • Systems that process sensory input in the context of the device's current situation and instruct the device to perform actions in response to the situation.  This would include operating systems and application software. 
  • Services for robots are similar to other emerging application areas (consulting, implementation, and maintenance), but the services are customized for specific application areas (security, cleaning, healthcare, etc.).

Advances in military and commercial robots continue to trickle down to the consumer personal robot market.  As the
market for innovative components grows (e.g., laser rangefinders in the
military and automotive industry), we’ll see continued advancement of robotic applications
in the consumer market.

Anticipated Developments

The main personal robot market segments that have thrived in recent years are toy/entertainment robots and vacuum cleaner robots.  I expect these segments to continue to continue to grow and thrive in the coming years.  Overtime, I expect to see more robots designed for the elderly and dependents to make their way to the market.  And I also expect to see more home security robots coming to the market.

The excitement surrounding the consumer robot market is in what lies ahead in terms of innovations.  We should expect innovations that enable increased precision, better controls, lower costs, and improved technology.  Not only will new robots have more computing power, but they will have improved knowledge based systems, speech recognition, wireless capabilities and improved power (fuel cells).  All these enhancements will greatly enhance robot use.

Other anticipated developments include:

  • Telepresence applications making their way to personal robots, allowing remote users to interact with the robot’s environment.
  • Future personal robots will be able to interact with their owners, express basic emotions, and help make decisions.
  • Advanced software in the area of analytics and artificial intelligence will result in improved robot decision making capabilities
  • Advancements in machine to machine communications will lead to robot networks, multi-robot systems, and remote/distributed robotics.
  • Long term, as nanotechnology enhancements come to market, we will see a new breed of Mini, Micro, and Nanobots

There should be no doubt in our minds that the future looks bright for personal robots.  They will have a significant impact on the lifestyles of our future generations.  Personal robots will improve our productivity by taking care of everyday chores.  They will improve our safety.  They will help us make better decisions. 

Eventually personal robots will become our constant companions.  Along the way, future generations will have to resolve a whole set of new issues relating to personal robots, including security/privacy issues, robot rights, robot/human ethics, and social/cultural issues.

Companies to Watch

There are hundreds of companies that manufacture robots and robot components.  Many of these companies are focused on the commercial or military robotic industry.  Some large consumer-oriented electronic companies like Honda, and Electrolux are attempting to address the consumer robot market.  However, most robot companies are small businesses and start ups.   Here’s a list of various companies focused on the consumer market.

Cleaning Robots

Lawnmowers

  • Belgium Robotic Systems – Robotic Lawnmower
  • Husqvarna – Sells a line of robotic lawnmowers
  • Precise Path –  Has introduced the RG3 Robotic Greens Mower for golf courses.  Long term plans includes a fleet of robotic vehicles designed to tackle for every aspect of golf course conditioning and maintenance.
  • Zucchetti – sells a robotic lawnmower called the Robotica

Companionship / Entertainment

  • Bossa Nova Robotics – Is focusing on innovative robotic toys, like the Prime-8 gorilla and the Penbo Penguin
  • GeckoSystems – Based in Atlanta, GA, it sells the CareBot™ line of Mobile Service Robots for the elderly care market
  • Hitachi’s EMIEW2 – Is a prototype mobile service robot with that can conduct basic services.
  • Mistubishi’s Wakamaru – A robot designed to provide companionship to elderly and disabled people. 
  • NEC’s PaPero – is a prototype entertainment/companionship robot designed to interact with humans.
  • AIST’s Paro – This robot looks like a seal and has been designed to provide animal therapy to patients and the elderly.
  • robosoft – Based in France, the company has introduced its Kompaï robot for home elderly use.
  • Toyota – Has a research arm focused on developing future robot systems titled Toyota Partner Robots designed to interact with humans and perform basic services.
  • Yujin Robotics’ iRobi –  iRobi is an entertainment/companionship robot that will interact with humans and perform basic task.

Security 

  • Fujitsu’s enon – a prototype service robot designed to perform various tasks, including security, surveillance, guidance/assistance, and transporting items.
  • Rotundus – Sells the GroundBot security robot, a remote-controlled sphere with embedded camera that can move silently inside and outside a building
  • Spykee Spy Robot – A remote controlled security robot packed with features, including camera, microphone, VOIP phone, flashlight, sound effects, and mp3 reader.
  • WowWee Group Ltd – Hong Kong based company offers the Rovio Wi-Fi Enabled Robotic WebCam, a household security robot 

Components/Solutions/Research

  • Anybots Inc. – Telepresence solutions for robots
  • Barrett Technology, Inc. -  Core technology includes improving flexibility in robotic arms and hands
  • CoroWare, Inc -  Expertise in personal telepresence and mobile robotics
  • dRobotics – Online retail store providing a wide variety of robot components and solutions.
  • General Vision Inc – Develops and sells image recognition systems (e.g. the CogniMem neural network chip) that can be applied to robots
  • Gostai – Is focused on developing and applying artificial intelligence capabilities and software platforms to robots.
  • Hitec RCD – Distributor of component parts for robots
  • Honda’s Asimo – Honda has a long history of researching robots, with a focus on Asimo and related humanoid technology.
  • Karto Robotics – Is developing software that can provide high accuracy navigation, mapping, and exploration functionality across a broad range of mobile robot platforms.
  • KumoTek LLC – Based near Dallas, Texas, KumoTek is a robotics design and manufacturing company focusing on consumer and service robots
  • MobileRobots Inc – Designs and manufactures autonomous mobile robotic systems, including the Motivity guidance and control technology.
  • OLogic Inc – A design company focusing on the design and packaging of internal components (sensor, processor, and mobility) and devices for robotics.
  • RoadNarrows Robotics – A Colorado company developing open-interface hardware and software robotic solutions.  Focuses on research and education markets.
  • Readybot – Based in Silicon Valley, this company is focusing on developing an easy-to-use, modular, off-the-shelf, robotic work platform.  One of their target markets is robots for the elderly. 
  • Speecys Corporation – Based in Tokyo, the stated main focus of Speecys is to develop a humanoid robot and the surrounding system that enable the robot to download content via the Internet so that it can provide entertainment and perform various tasks.
  • Surveyor Corporation – A California based developer of small robots, robot controllers, and other robot components for research and education.
  • White Box Robotics – Sells the 914 PC-BOT platform to researchers, academics, and developers. It is a mobile robot with an embedded PC complete with inputs for keyboard, monitor and mouse
  • Willow Garage – Is a team of experts in robot design, control, perception, and machine learning that develop hardware and open source software for personal robotic applications.

For More Information

Well, that’s it…a basic introduction into the emerging world of personal robots.  I think we can only attempt to imagine what the world of robots will be like in 100 years from now.  There is no doubt in my mind that the impact will be significant. 

I hope you enjoyed this primer into personal robots.  For primers into other emerging trend and technology topics…for those check out my category “Primers”.