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Amazon, Google, and Robots! Oh My!

By now you have likely read about the interesting news about robotics developments related to Amazon and Google. This has raised several inquiries about the significance and its impact on what Hoaloha Robotics is doing. First, with regards to Amazon’s suggestion that they might be delivering packages by autonomous drones within the next 5 years, the concept of flying drones delivering packages to your doorstep seems fraught with challenges that make this highly unlikely. However, I take it somewhat as more of a publicity move to help stimulate online purchasing for the holidays. In addition, I also think it enables Amazon to highlight the innovations they are thinking about to make deliveries to you even faster. What was surprising is that the video showed the drone flying out of what looked like a conventional warehouse. It might have been more impressive if they had shown it in a Kiva Systems-equipped warehouse,…

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Brooks’ Baxter Bot

With the recent announcement of ReThink Robotics’ Baxter (see link below if you haven’t seen it), I received a lot of questions about how their robot may impact what Hoaloha Robotics is doing. http://vimeo.com/49683995 First, let me say that this unveiling reflects the tremendous progress of robotics technology. Dr. Brooks is one of the preeminent pioneers in this field, having formerly served not only as the head of MIT AI lab, but also as one of the founders of iRobot, creators of the popular Roomba vacuum cleaner bots and the military Packbot. Brooks left iRobot and MIT around the same time I left Microsoft. While the precise details of what he would build weren’t known, Rod was open about his intent to move industrial robots out of the factory where, for safety sake, they are fenced to avoid dangers to humans; and instead able to operate alongside people. This required not only…

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These aren’t the droids you’re looking for

I recently spoke at InnoRobo/RoboLift, a European robotics conference, held in the beautiful city of Lyon, France. Since my last trip to a European robotics conference was about 3 years ago, I was looking forward to catching up on how robotics was developing in this part of the world. One of the first things I noted was that the conference organizers had invited speakers from the design and user research community including Cynthia Breazeal, professor from MIT’s Media Lab. I particularly like to hear about Cynthia’s research because I share her philosophy that robot interaction needs to be designed as a social experience. Her work with Kismet, Leonardo, Nexi, and other robots really stand out as great examples of where the design of personal robots needs to go. This was refreshing, because many robotics conferences I have attended (except for the annual HRI conference) typically focus on optimistic market projections or demonstrations of…

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