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Robotics Security Toys Hardware IT

Toy Robots Can Guard Your Home 151

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the outside-is-for-suckers dept.
Orome1 writes "Worried about burglars ransacking your house? Buy yourself some toy robots! It is what Robert Oschler, a Florida-based programmer, did. He bought a Rovio — a Wi-Fi enabled mobile webcam robot that can be picked up from toy sections of many stores — and modified it to suit his needs. The robot already has a camera, a microphone and speakers, but the improvements he made to the software allowed him to enhance the audio and video quality of this existing equipment, and to create specific routines for the robots. This way, every time he feels the need to check what's going on in the house, he simply goes online with his laptop and directs the robot through the house."
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Toy Robots Can Guard Your Home

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  • More useful... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Monkeedude1212 (1560403) on Tuesday November 09, 2010 @03:57PM (#34178080) Journal

    Is simply multiple cameras.

    If I was Burgling you, and I heard a noise from downstairs starting to head up, I might sneak into the nearest closet - wait for that thing to pass, then bolt out the door.

    Whereas if you simply had a realtime view from many angles - there's no real chance I'd be able to dodge you seeing me - and possibly identifying me.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by blair1q (305137)

      If only an article would stop accepting posts when the correct answer was posted...

      • by TheKidWho (705796)

        Kinda like how your brain works huh, You stop asking questions when you see an answer that "looks" right?

        • by blair1q (305137)

          Yes. Same as everyone's.

          Except that mine is a lot better at knowing what "looks" right than most people's, and has a lot of experience reading between the lines, looking behind the curtain, cutting through the haze, and seeing the forest for the trees.

    • by BenoitRen (998927)

      Multiple cameras can't cover the same area, and are likely more expensive. Thieves will surely be more mindful of cameras as well, and dodge their view area.

      At any rate, these robots sound awesome!

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by GameboyRMH (1153867)

        At any rate, these robots sound awesome!

        I've looked at them, they're not that great sadly. The webcam quality is horrible, battery life is poor and the camera's vertical aim can't be adjusted.

        I might pick one up for fun if the price drops low enough.

      • by cduffy (652)

        Only if they're smart, and paying attention.

        The homeowner in this article [googleusercontent.com] is a friend of mine (Google Cache link on account of the original being broken), and they didn't do much by way of trying to avoid his cameras.

        Of course, him being armed and present did a lot more than cameras alone would have, too.

      • by natehoy (1608657)

        According to the article, once the toy dog is tricked out it'll set you back a little under $1000. For that kind of money, you can put at least nine of these little suckers (or any one of a number of similar models) into your house:

        http://www.amazon.com/Cisco-Linksys-Wireless-N-Internet-Monitoring-Camera/dp/B002OHDFOA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1289334401&sr=8-2 [amazon.com]

        There are also models with higher resolution and/or automatic night vision, which of course comes at a price. But you can still afford two or

        • by mldi (1598123)
          Since most people don't want to deal with a break-in in the first place, I would also suggest plainly visible fake cameras outside the house as a deterrent. Also, since I'm paranoid about the thieves taking off with the video footage as well (if they're smart), I securely bolted down a small safe with a high capacity thumb drive inside that I use to record the footage. It's secured to a concrete floor in the basement, and bolted from the inside. I only drilled a single hole big enough to fit a USB cable th
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by h4rr4r (612664)

      Which does what exactly?
      The police are not going to be interested, I say this as someone who has seen folks go through that situation. The police will showup, offer to give you a copy of their report for your insurance company and not even bother to view the footage much less use it in anyway.

      • It means when you see that punk around the neighbourhood you beat his ass?

        I agree that survelience isn't true security - but if thats what you're going for - than all I'm saying is more Cameras are better than a mobile 1.

      • by natehoy (1608657)

        The most important thing in a home security system, to me, is notification that my house has been entered. Forget protecting my stuff. I'm not Chuck Norris, and my shit can be replaced. I don't own anything worth dying for. Not a single thing. The important data on my computer is encrypted and backed up offsite, the papers I care about are in a well-concealed safe, and I can buy replacements for anything else that's important.

        I primarily lock my doors so the insurance company can't gripe about my lack

    • by CrazyJim1 (809850) on Tuesday November 09, 2010 @04:06PM (#34178226) Journal
      Yeah, but if you want to mount a machine gun to all your cameras, you'll have to buy multiple guns. With just one robot that patrols, you save a load on weaponry. Oh... who am I kidding. Once you get one robot with weaponry, it just becomes an addiction to buy more.
    • by TheKidWho (705796)

      You assume burglars are smart. You know what they say about assuming...

      • by RevWaldo (1186281)
        It's a poor sort of security that assumes that the person you're up against isn't very bright. And/or creative and/or desperate and/or psychotic.

        .
      • Are you saying that I'm smart?

        I never once mentioned Burglars and Intelligence, I merely said what I would do if I were burgling.

      • by thewils (463314)

        ..yes! It make an ass out of u and some guy named ming.

      • by tehcyder (746570)

        You assume burglars are smart. You know what they say about assuming...

        It is generally wiser to over- rather than under-estimate an opponent.

    • Re:More useful... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by dave562 (969951) on Tuesday November 09, 2010 @04:22PM (#34178490) Journal

      If I had the balls to break into somebody's home, I'd probably just take the robot to spite them.

      • If I had the balls to break into somebody's home, I'd probably just take the robot to spite them.

        Yeah, especially if the thief thinks that the robot is storing the video footage locally. I didn't RTFA but I imagine it streams the video to a server wirelessly (i.e. not inside of the robot), but that doesn't mean the thief knows that. But I guess if the video _is_ stored externally, then at least you would a pretty good shot of the thief (even if you do lose the robot).

      • This. The article says to me, "Come to my house: I have cool robots to steal!" Just carry a battery-powered wifi jammer (google it; WTF is going on with paste on /.?) and the robots won't be able to report you!
    • Re:More useful... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Triv (181010) on Tuesday November 09, 2010 @04:27PM (#34178568) Journal

      "Whereas if you simply had a realtime view from many angles - there's no real chance I'd be able to dodge you seeing me - and possibly identifying me."

      Why do people always believe that their home is always somehow a target for burglars? You don't have to secure your possessions with cameras and robots and laser tripwires, you just need to make the house across the street look like less of a hassle to get into.

      The easiest way to not get burgled it to make your house look, from the street, to not be worth a burglar's time. The cheapest way to do this is to buy a dog house and put it in your front yard. The second cheapest way to do this is to buy a dog house, put it in your front yard, and put a dog in it.

      Or here's something my Grandfather taught me: leave a different light on in a different room every night. I defy you to find a security system cheaper than the 10 dollars a year the electricity will cost you.

      Moral of the story: you're not that special, and if you get burgled, you spun a d20 and rolled low. There are other things more worthy of being thought about than that.

      • Why do people always believe that their home is always somehow a target for burglars?

        Well, once you've got a troop of seeing-eye robot sentries constantly patrolling the house, I think you have made your house a pretty good target. Adding lasers and tripwires, doubly. So I think those things are justified... if you've installed them.

        • by gknoy (899301)

          Yeah, but then you need to get the full time monitoring lackeys, and install the shark pools. It's just too much hassle.

      • So the whole dog argument is a little confusing to me. I heard somewhere that having a dog is the best deterrent (hardly the cheapest though) against a burglar, and I also heard that most professional burglars will agree. I have two counter points, however:

        Point one: Do people really train their guard dogs to attack strangers? Who wants a friend to visit, only to be bitten by the dog? And why should a thief be afraid of a housebroken dog? If it's the middle of the day and everyone's at work, the dogs will d

        • by Dare nMc (468959)

          I had some of the same thoughts, my reasoning came down to 2 things. 1) Dogs are un-predictable (in a unique situation.) 2) Even a thief has a conscious and doesn't want to hurt a Dog if it does react.

        • Point one: Do people really train their guard dogs to attack strangers? Who wants a friend to visit, only to be bitten by the dog? And why should a thief be afraid of a housebroken dog? If it's the middle of the day and everyone's at work, the dogs will definitely bark at a stranger, but all it takes is a couple treats and a toy to win their friendship. It Takes a Thief confirmed this, say what you will about the Discovery Channel.

          It is possible to train a dog to attack a stranger who clearly attacks the dog or his/her owner first but simply to bark at the stranger under any other circumstances. The German-Shepherd-Dog breeding program from Germany includes such training [wikipedia.org] in their breed-standard tests. The training is extremely time-consuming and most dogs and their owners can't (or shouldn't) do it, but a well-trained Schutzhund dog can be a good family pet, friendly to invited guests, and also a good protector.

          Point two: My least favorite sound when I knock on a door to a friend's house it the loud barking of dogs. I find it uninviting and normally if they bark at the doorbell, they will jump on the visitor and probably tear his clothes with their claws. Do you want to live your life answering the door with "sorry about the dogs; they're friendly, don't worry!" You might train them *not* to bark at the doorbell and jump on visitors, but then what good is a guard dog that doesn't bark?

          Barking != jumping up

        • by AlXtreme (223728)

          Robbing the neighbors house (who don't have a dog) is easier.

          Most dogs won't bite strangers, but why would you risk a barking dog when you can move on to easier targets? Sure, most dogs are easily pleased, but that means the robber has to bring those treats and risk the dog not being interested in them and bark instead. Why take the chance?

          Burglars like easy pickings, otherwise they won't be in business for very long...

      • by geekoid (135745)

        Besides charlie Brown, who the hell puts a dog house n their front lawn? and who wouldn't notice the lack of use?

        You are correct, just don't make it worth the hassle. Of course, that assumes the burglar is thinking beyond that moment. Many crimes committed to fullfil and addiction aren't really thought out.

        Most wierd and 'stupid' bank robberies are spur of the moment addiction induced decisions.

        If you think about it for 30 seconds, people would realize why sticking up a bank in the US is stupid.

      • by fermion (181285)
        Absolutely agreed. In many cases, the amont of deterrent, for many people, seems to be based on the value they wish others to place on objects rather than the value of the objects. In other cases, people go out of their way to exceed the norms of neighborhood, in which case what do the expect?

        There was another recent article about the use of cameras to monitor personal property. I know people who do this. They have often have a overexcite sense of personal property. It is not only that they do not wa

      • by tehcyder (746570)

        you just need to make the house across the street look like less of a hassle to get into.

        Simples, just make a big cardboard sign reading "no deliveries please, on holiday for two weeks" and stick it on the front door of the nearest handgun-packing neighbour.

    • by Max_W (812974)

      Actually, Rovio is surprisingly fast.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by iamhassi (659463)
      "More useful... Is simply multiple cameras."

      And I'm sure you'd have better luck with multiple cameras: Of the 89 reviews, 35 gave it 1 out of 5 stars. [amazon.com] That's a very poor score, who would buy something where nearly half the reviews are 1 out of 5 stars?

      And the complaints aren't just "I can't set it up". Many of the complaints are Battery only has a 10 minute charge, no customer service, [amazon.com] Broke after 2 months, no customer service. [amazon.com]

      One customer even managed to fix his using internet instructions afte [amazon.com]
    • How useful are cameras, either? So you happen to catch a guy on film robbing your house. Even if you happen to be watching while it happens, the guy is going to be long gone before the cops get there, and what good is the video really going to do you? It's fine for evidence... IF the cops ever catch the guy who did it, which is highly unlikely. But I don't see how it deters a break-in in the first place.

      It seems to me you'd be a lot better off to invest in more secure locks, alarm systems (more for scaring

      • How useful are cameras, either? So you happen to catch a guy on film robbing your house. Even if you happen to be watching while it happens, the guy is going to be long gone before the cops get there, and what good is the video really going to do you? It's fine for evidence... IF the cops ever catch the guy who did it, which is highly unlikely. But I don't see how it deters a break-in in the first place.

        It seems to me you'd be a lot better off to invest in more secure locks, alarm systems (more for scaring off the burglar than anything else), and similar stuff.

        Also, a video of a guy wearing a mask is less than useful. I agree with the locks... even Medeco locks aren't completely bump-proof, but why go to the extra trouble of key-bumping a Medeco lock (which is much more work than bumping a regular lock) when there's a house across the street with its windows unlocked.

    • by Dan541 (1032000)

      Really, I would just take the damn robot with me. Those things are worth money.

  • A New Use For Them (Score:3, Interesting)

    by camperslo (704715) on Tuesday November 09, 2010 @04:00PM (#34178112)

    What we need are some cannibalistic robots that'll go around the house feeding on old PCs and other consumer electronics. It should cut the cost, help them grow (and reproduce?) and save us the hassles of other recycling methods.

    • by rAiNsT0rm (877553)

      ...or maybe stop buying so much consumer electronic goods and you wouldn't be a burglar's target :)

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Enhance 224 to 176.
    Enhance, stop.
    Move in, stop.
    Pull out, track right, stop.
    Center in, pull back. Stop.
    Track 45 right. Stop.
    Center and stop.
    Enhance 34 to 36.
    Pan right and pull back.
    Stop. Enhance 34 to 46.
    Pull back.
    Wait a minute, go right, stop.
    Enhance 57 to 19.
    Track 45 left. Stop.
    Enhance 15 to 23.
    Give me a hard copy right there.

    • by Altus (1034)

      I was thinking about something more like :

      "Home again, home again, jiggity jig. Good evening J. F."

  • This is how Davros got his start, isn't it? First it's just one or two remote units for home security, then the next thing you know they're heavily armed and armored killing machines intoning "EX-TER-MIN-ATE!" at the neighbors.
  • After getting a few of these to guard my home, I just need to purchase and upgrade a few more of these robots to do my job, and then I can live the life I really want to live!
  • I would think that the microphone would run afoul of wiretapping and eavesdropping laws.

    • It's in your own house. You can't eavesdrop on your own property (excluding creepy landlords who put cameras in the showers of single women [or men] who are renting from them).

      Besides, what's the burglar's defense going to be? "Yeah, I broke into the guys home. So what! That doesn't give him the right to record what I took!"

      • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Besides, what's the burglar's defense going to be? "Yeah, I broke into the guys home. So what! That doesn't give him the right to record what I took!"

        Considering that in some places a burglar can sue the homeowner for getting hurt during a break-in, and win, this is nowhere near as far-fetched as it should be.

        If you live in one of these states, remember the 3 S's when dealing with a burglar: "shoot, shovel, and shut up".

      • by tehcyder (746570)

        You can't eavesdrop on your own property (excluding creepy landlords who put cameras in the showers of single women [or men] who are renting from them).

        I love the idea that these creepy landlords are non-sexist.

    • Some states only require one party to be aware that the conversation is being recorded.

      A simple sticker at the entrances to the house might fix anything else, this house monitored etc, audio and video will be provided to law enforcement.

      The real question I have is how well the webcams do in low light, and or could you combine this with X10 controls to switch on the lights?

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Pro923 (1447307)
        Webcams do great with infrared light... You can't tell that the lights are on, but you show up perfectly on the webcam. This is the secret to all camera night vision technologies. We discovered it decades ago when we realized that my friends' video camera could see the blinking light when he clicks on the TV remote control.
  • ...if only...
    • by arndawg (1468629)
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Ejh--_56ic&feature=player_embedded [youtube.com] THis looks cool. If i where a burglar i wouldn't definetly be scared to met by a hacksaw.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by bradgoodman (964302)
        Yea...the Parrot is a whole lot less impressive in person though.

        Problems are:

        1. It is very difficult to fly through the camera - when you're not actually looking at it.

        2. You need to be near it - Meaning the Parrot becomes a WiFi access point that your phone has to connect to. i.e. You cant fly it over the open 'net.

        3. There is no type of "docking" - or "auto docking" - so you need to be there to physically turn it off, plug it back into the charger, etc.

        The Parrot would be cool if it was more li

  • He'll have to check the camera footage every couple of minutes for this to be of any use (i.e. to catch an intruder in the act). Guarding his house has just become a full-time job. Also, the robot would have to be pretty quiet to allow it to sneak up on an intruder. And how good are the camera images going to be in the dark?
    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      This could help on the full-time job part: http://vitamindinc.com/

  • In an odd turnabout, the summary is better written than the linked article, which reads like someone writing in English as a second language.

    This set up may not be reliable enough for guarding, let's say, a bank, but for the home is well enough. And Oschler is no the only one who experimented with this type of home security.

  • by VortexCortex (1117377) <`VortexCortex' ` ... -retrograde.com'> on Tuesday November 09, 2010 @04:12PM (#34178342) Homepage

    Everyone knows that the best way to scare off buglers is to call out into the darkness, in your most shaky and unnaturally high pitched tone, "I have a gun! ... I've already called the police!".

    This, followed shortly by turning on all the lights and tip-toeing around in your boxers wielding a golf club is more than enough security for anyone!

  • by gad_zuki! (70830) on Tuesday November 09, 2010 @04:17PM (#34178422)

    then these machines aren't guarding your home. Get an alarm system.

    That said, I owned a Rovio for a few weeks last year. I bought it as an xmas present to myself and found it lacking. I thought it would be cute to watch the dog from work but the CMOS webcam on it just required too much light to be usable. Even under well-lit conditions the compressed video was of marginal quality. I also wanted to use voice chat feature, which is IE only btw, but that didn't work out well either. The audio was either horrible or badly delayed. Not was there a "listen" button. It simply decided to broadcast audio when it decided to (whenever sound hit a threshold). It also had a low battery life and failed to dock often. Luckily, Amazon accepted my return and I got my money back.

    Its a neat device and cheap for a telepresence robot, but not that great. I'd love to see a v2 of this, especially if it was easily hackable.

    • by pz (113803)

      The reviews on Amazon are pretty damning. Sounds like your experience was one of the more positive ones.

      • by hitmark (640295)

        as with anything online, negative reviews are more likely to be posted then positive ones.

  • At least, that's what the toy robot did in A Fistful of Yen [imdb.com].

  • by Gulthek (12570) on Tuesday November 09, 2010 @04:19PM (#34178460) Homepage Journal

    Bart: Milhouse. You were supposed to be the night watchman.

    Milhouse: I was watching. I saw the whole thing. First it started falling over, then it fell over.

  • There, fixed that for you.
  • Cute, but I still think my home security system [wikipedia.org] is better. Unlike a robot with a camera, mine will actually scare a burglar away.

    Plus, she's warm and cuddly in the winter and is almost trained to fetch a beer for me. If only beer came in plastic bottles (she doesn't like the glass, and aluminum is too thin), i'd be set! :)

  • Oh no! A toy robot! Ruuunnnnn!!!

    A classic from the Kentucky Fried Movie
    http://jb5353.tripod.com/kfm/toy.wav [tripod.com]

    • by rastilin (752802)
      They must be shaped like garden gnomes, and there should be loads of them.

      Bonus: Have their eyes glow red when they move towards a target en-masse.
  • What would really be ideal is a robot docking station. Most of us already have a device that takes WiFi, has a camera, microphone and runs software - it's our laptops. Why not just a robotic docking station with some software that lets me control it from anywhere? Just eliminating this once a year situation alone would be worth the cost: "Turn the car around! I think I left the curling iron plugged in!"
  • Is this device a man trap if I mount a flash bulb device on it and it takes a "flash" picture?
  • This a great way to capture footage of somebody in a ski mask smashing your camera.
     
    The only "security" this provides is the secure feeling of looking at your stuff so you can sigh with relief that you haven't been robbed yet.

  • That will work great, until someone cuts the phone and cable lines to your house and your modem goes dead.

    When I used to work on security systems we would bring along a shovel for installs. We would bury the phone line and move the phone box inside to the basement. Made it inconvenient for the home owners if they needed changes to their service (they would have to be home to let the phone guy in), but gave them a heck of a lot more security.

    For my own place I put up a dummy box with some wires running into

  • by X86Daddy (446356) on Tuesday November 09, 2010 @06:10PM (#34179948) Journal

    If you can do any type of programming that hits URLS, you can program the Rovio... it's whole interface is HTTP Puts and Gets with custom URLs, and it's well documented. After Wowwee released some of the advanced documentation, someone published the commands to brighten the camera within a week, solving a problem of way-too-dark video that had existed since the beginning. With this level of control, throwing together an interface you can operate from your cell-phone becomes very plausible... no laptop needed.

    The person the article is about is actually the author of RoboDance, which is a complex application that controls a bunch of robots, with an emphasis on the infrared controlled kinds like RoboSapien. His next version of RoboDance is the one that will include Rovio control and probably all the capabilities described in the article.

    I've been really impressed with the Rovio... my only complaint is that the battery life is pretty weak, right out of the box.

  • ...would be the cool robots.

    Perhaps after hacking in to them to see if there was anyone, like, at home.

  • It won't stop them being defeated by a the burglar wearing a hoodie.
  • was "Kentucky Fried Movie"...

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