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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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A Parting Salute to Cliff Nass – Social Interface Pioneer and Good Friend

I met Cliff Nass in late 1994. He and his colleague Byron Reeves were consulting on a project at Microsoft called “Utopia”, often cited as an example of one the company’s greatest failures—Microsoft Bob. However, that attribution is unfortunate because Cliff (and the history behind Microsoft Bob) contributed in a very positive way to Hoaloha’s design philosophy and to the entire technology industry. At that time, Cliff and Byron were both professors of sociology at Stanford University, initially researching how we humans interact and the almost innate, unconscious patterns of behavior we exhibit. For example, their research that human social behavior such as our natural tendency to give more positive feedback when face-to-face than when relating that information to another party, that participating within a group makes tend to feel more positive about our team members, that we hold stereotypes based on the gender of voices, and that we tend…

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Look Ma, no arms!

My last post was considered more newsworthy than I thought. In a recent IEEE Spectrum article (Hoaloha Robotics Developing Socially Assistive Hardware Platform), Senior Writer, Evan Ackerman made several important observations and comments that I wanted to respond to. “…but we know is that the robot will likely not include an arm at this time, because there’s no way to add one and still hit Hoaloha’s cost target,…” This is true and deserves some further explanation. Let’s start with the cost of components. A majority of conventional robot arms include six to seven servo motors to get a similar degree of movement that a human arm has. While you might be able to buy or build such an arm with basic hobby servo motors, to hold up to the load and usage patterns, you really need something of higher quality with good gearing, sufficient torque, and little backlash. Such motors…

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