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The Rise of Emotional Robots

There seems to be an ever increasing number of new stories about emergence of robots, but I wanted to single out a number of recent announcements that I found quite interesting.  The first is the announcement of Google’s latest strategy with regards to self-driving cars. It’s certainly not new that Google has been investing in self-driving cars. They have been traveling the streets of San Francisco and the freeways of the Bay Area for some time now. However, the latest information reveals that Google is applying what they have learned from retrofitting conventional cars with sensors and computers to these own custom vehicles. Unlike their predecessors, the new Google cars are smaller and designed to only travel about 25 miles per hour. Also, unlike their more conventional cousins, they have no explicit controls (i.e. no steering wheel), other than an emergency stop button. They have also been designed to have soft exteriors, likely not so much…

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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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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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