Robotics has obvious applications in the Smart Home but, its one of those technologies that has failed to deliver on its promises for decades. It looks like things are finally turning the corner and reasonably priced consumer robots to address specific problems are appearing on the market.
A single, generic, multi-function robot that can vacuum clean your house, make you breakfast and do the ironing is still some way off though!
Asimo represents the peak of current humanoid robot technology:
Baxter was conceived by Rodney Brooks (of iRobot fame), the Australian roboticist and artificial-intelligence expert. He left MIT to form Rethink and build a humanoid robot that can easily be programmed to do simple jobs. Baxter is one of a new generation of smarter, more adaptive industrial robots. Conventional industrial robots are expensive to program and incapable of handling deviations in their environment. They are also dangerous and have to be located away from humans. Baxter is more easily programmed and can respond to a parts that have moved or orientated differently. It is also considered safe and thus a reasonable indicator of what domestic robots may soon be capable of.
"HRP-4" Humanoid Platform
NAO is a small, 'toy' robot:
This DARPA funded robot sets a new record of 28.3mph:
iRobot sell a range of domestic vacuum cleaning robots fropm around ©220 to ©720. These robots claim to remove 98% of dirt, dust and pet hair with just the touch of a button. Using 'iAdapt Responsive Cleaning Technology', it is claimed to vacuum the entire floor, including the hard-to-reach spots under and around furniture. We would love to test one out in our current home.
Communications & Telepresence
Double Robotics is a simple robotic stand for the iPad that turns it into a telepresence device.
Consumer Electronic Show 2013, iRobot's Mirra 530 is a consumer pool cleaning robot. It requires no connection to the pool pumps or filtration system.
ECOVACS Winbot series are designed purely to clean windows. It uses a pair of concentric suction rings to adhere to the glass and it claims to work on any thickness of window. The Winbot 7 also includes a number of safety features. If the outer suction ring detects a loss of pressure, the robot automatically halts and reverses. When cleaning the exterior side of windows, a safety pad is stuck to the inside of the window and connected to the robot by its power cord. If the Winbot 7 does lose its grip, the pod keeps the robot from falling and distance. There is also a back up battery to keep the robot in place in the event of a power failure.
Chinese manufacturer ECOVACS launched the Famibot 5 at CES 2013. It is a multi-purpose robot and you can connect to the Famibot with your Smartphone and talk, watch and interact with other family members. It features both 3G and Wi-Fi network connectivity. If you connect your appliances to Famibot's 'intelligent receptacles', you can control them via your Smartphone. Famibot also seems to act as a controller for smoke and PIR movement detectors. The Famibot can also play music, news, weather reports, etc. And finally, it also acts as an air purifier.
Ecovacs says the two droids should hit U.S. markets in the first half of 2013, with Famibot having a suggested retail price of $899, and Minibot priced at $499.
Collaborative & Reconfigurable Robots
Dr. Markus Waibel of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich believes that what's holding robots back is their inability to send and receive new information over the internet like humans do. To combat this problem the Swiss team are developing RoboEarth, a repository of data that robots can use to collaborate and learn new tasks and share their own experiences.
(Tiny) Reconfigurable Robots at MIT:
News & Articles
- BBC News - Robotic insect: World's smallest flying robot takes off (2nd May 2013)
- Gizmag - VelociRoACH: A tiny robotic cockroach with a need for speed (14th January 2013)
- The Guardian - The domestic robot is a dream we must leave behind