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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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We do what we must because…

I’ve received a few queries asking about our status. Blog entries are typically posted frequently by their creators, so I am a bit overdue for an update. It’s not for lack of progress, but because of it. We have been so busy at Hoaloha that it has been hard to take a break, but let me try to bring you up to date. First, we did a major shift from our original strategy. Initially I had hoped to focus purely on the software development side of the solution for two reasons: 1) there seemed to be enough challenges here and 2) there appeared to be a number of companies already working on assistive care robots so it didn’t seem necessary to invest on the hardware side. You can read about some of them such as Robosoft, who participated with their robot Kompaï in the recently concluded Mobiserv project in Europe…

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