Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A solution in search of a problem.

Today I went out to the RoboDevelopment conference. I'm going to start out with the best stuff. My mood falls precipitously off a cliff from there. I've been going to these types conferences for 4 or 5 years. Some years I'm very hopeful on where the field is going. This year, I'm pretty sure the future is never going to get here. The first few years were littered with wide eyed enthusiasm. There were lots of ideas of how robots were going to make our lives easier. This year was disappointing in its complete lack of direction.

I'd ask vendor after vendor "what application do you see your product being useful for"? Remarkably, time after time the response was "whatever you want it to be". I started seeing this trend pop up two years ago. But, this year - it was the dominating trend. Which would be fine - but, I don't see that as a money making venture. And yes.. people. Your job is to make money. You've put your foot into the hobbyist arena. That marketplace does not allow you to survive.

I go to these things hoping to see some break away product. Praying that I see something that might appeal to a large market. Usually I just have to be happy seeing the same vendor twice. Which is where I was today.

This was the first thing I saw when I walked in. I remembered it immediately from CES. I didn't post any of my robot pictures from CES this year. I went the last day, and by the time I got all my pictures unpacked everyone was over it.

But, I remember taking a lot of photos of this thing though. I was fascinated because it was running a windows OS. It also looked like a product people might buy. They didn't have it running at CES. But, it seemed marketable.

So, I was delighted to see it today. I don't know how much they are charging for it, but I think it has some features that can keep children captivated for a while. It was pretending to be involved in the conversation these two guys were having.

I would have liked to see how it ran without being tethered. But, it played music, and danced. Which didn't seem immediately lame. It seemed to have good voice recognition and human interaction. It didn't fall over like some of its competitors.

Their company website could really use some work. You can check it out here. Instead of computer renderings of the product, it seemed to perform well enough for actual video. And the site just seems a little creepy and uninviting. The product didn't seem anything like what the website portrays.

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