Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A solution in search of a problem. Part 2.

Part 1 here.

Today I was reading reviews on the RoboDevelopment conference. I got this gem from Marketwatch.

"Robotics have certainly come a long way in the past decade. Tandy Trower, general manager of Microsoft's robotics initiative, said hardware costs have dropped drastically. "

Yes.. the robotics industry has come a long way in the last decade - but has done almost squat in the last four years. It's surprising for exactly the reason Mr Trower says. Hardware costs. It is amazing how cheap they've become. Yet the industry still lacks any discernible direction. I'd always assumed that the industry was stalled because the prices of components were too expensive. Now, it is apparent this was not the bottleneck. It is a lack of good ideas. Until some quantum shift occurs (perhaps from software) this industry seems unable to to find a foothold in any market.

Back to the show.

I've grown skeptical of the walking robots. Which is why it is important to show them working. I walked by this thing 10 times, and I never saw it move. It is from a company called Aldebaran Robotics I've never heard of them before. It looks good, but I have tons of pictures of toy concepts that I never saw again. A demonstration of the grasping ability would have been nice.

This was a mechanical bear from The Personal Robotics Group at MIT. Which would be fine. Though, I'm not sure why they continue to pursue this market.

My pictures of the Mechanical Seal from RoboNexus 2004.

Doing a quick Google search, that product basically went nowhere. But, maybe if we make it look like a children's bear - it will take off.

Look - I know I'm being bitchy about this whole thing - but you have to have the intelligence of a three year old to be captivated by these products. And I'm actually being generous. 3 year olds are super smart these days. The old and infirm can get little use out of these products. And just as a side note - have you seen how well functioning octogenarians are these days?

Moble Robots was there. They are a mainstay. I presume they are making money because they are at most of the shows. Although, again - not much has changed.

My pictures from RoboNexus 05.

Pictures from RoboDevelopment 08'.

It does seem like they've added a user interface on some of their platforms. Perhaps it was working when the press was there, but I didn't see it working.

Lidar seems to be the big thing this year.

Update: I guess this is stereo vision rather than Lidar.


  1. Did the seal or bear actually ddo anything? I mean the bear just looks like a nany cam thing. And the seal looks like any other stuffed toy.

  2. It's been a couple of years since the seal. I believe it moved its head and eyes, and responded to voices and touch. I didn't get the whole pacifier thing.

    I didn't see the bear working. But, I imagine it is the same thing. Granted, I'm guessing more people like the shape of a bear than a seal.

    I think this thing might be more interesting though. If it isn't too puppet-ish.