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Hello? Is anyone there?

It has been awhile since we’ve posted an update here. We’ve just been very heads down on development of our companion robot. The age of “personal robotics” is only just beginning and creating one is more challenging than it might seem. Creating such a platform takes much more than PC, tablet, or mobile phone, in part because there are many more components, not only on the hardware side, but also for the software. This new “personal” generation requires more autonomy and more natural interaction, and natural interaction typically means supporting spoken input. While speech technology has seen improvement over the years, it still remains a most challenging form of input, much more prone to error than keyboards and mice. Even in human conversations, recognition isn’t always 100%. Advances in speech input have only set user expectations higher. We are pleased when speech oracles like Siri, Echo, or Cortana get it right, but typically very disappointed when…

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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. 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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Elementary, My Dear Watson

The impressive demonstration of IBM’s Watson supercomputer competing against human players on Jeopardy is certain to stir a lively debate about the implications of this technology. Is Watson a breakthrough or a clever set of programming tricks that have inherent limitations? Will technology like Watson replace humans? And who will be liable if a human makes a bad decision based on technology like Watson? Even within the computer science and artificial intelligence (AI) community, Watson’s performance will provoke disagreements about its significance and its practical applications. However, such questions and issues often arise with the creation of new technologies, whether we are talking about healthcare, communication, transportation, energy, or other innovations that impact our daily lives. Such concerns rarely stop adoption. It seems clear that Watson is not a substitute or replacement for human reasoning or actions, anymore than our desktop computers or smartphones, but like them simply a tool….

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