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Robotics Science

Personal Robots From Valley Startup 87

Tjeerd writes ""A Silicon Valley start-up is developing a hardware and software development platform for personal-assistant robots, autonomous boats and unmanned cars. The privately funded company, quietly started almost a year ago by eGroups founder and veteran Google architect Scott Hassan, plans to make its robotics software open source. That way, it hopes to draw a community of developers to build applications in these respective fields.""
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Personal Robots From Valley Startup

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  • It's an interesting strategy outlined in the article - that they're less worried about making money quickly and more worried about making robotics a sustainable sector of the economy means they'll either crash and burn early, or their efforts will single-handedly help to define a new generation of technology. Quite the fun dichotomy. :)
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by eln ( 21727 )
      It depends on how long their private investors are willing to continue pouring money into the operation. If all of the investors are passionate about the work and have lots and lots of cash, it might work out. If the company were to go public with that kind of strategy, of course, it would sink like a stone.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      It's an interesting strategy outlined in the article - that they're less worried about making money quickly and more worried about making robotics a sustainable sector of the economy means they'll either crash and burn early, or their efforts will single-handedly help to define a new generation of technology. Quite the fun dichotomy. :)

      I think the key is that they are planning on licensing the patents from the technology. At least, that's what I got from the article.

      1. Develop Robot Tech
      2. Patent R

    • Predicting the future of robotics may benefit from looking at the history of computers. We are at the stage now where robots are moving from build your own from savaged parts and hard hack skills to buying a proprietary system off the shelf. Moving into the Apple, Atari, Commodore, Tandy period of personal robotics. What we need now is an IBM like company that can bring together Microsoft and Intel to make an open cloneable hardware product that business will buy. Hopefully MS Robotic Studio won't be th
  • Think Tank (Score:2, Interesting)

    by UberHoser ( 868520 )
    "With no pressure to make money initially, the company will act more like a robotics think tank and will eventually devise licensing models for its technology"

    I have to admit this sounds pretty sweet. Not having the robotic overlords standing over you screaming "Bottom Line Bottom Line" would be refreshing......

    Oh god here they come.. "I serve only you, my lords .. no no not the tazer !!!!"
  • Great start (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Muad'Dave ( 255648 ) on Wednesday October 24, 2007 @10:12AM (#21099341) Homepage
    Cool. Great start. Call me when you have 'bots that can:

    • Load the dishwasher
    • Empty the cat litter
    • Feed the cats
    • Let the dogs in/out
    • Feed the dogs
    • Do laundry
    • Clean gutters
    • etc

    The vacuuming 'bots are cool, but there's so much more they'll need to do before they're really integrated, Jetson's-style.

    • by LiquidCoooled ( 634315 ) on Wednesday October 24, 2007 @10:18AM (#21099441) Homepage Journal
      * Load the dishwasher -> Wife
              * Empty the cat litter -> Wife
              * Feed the cats -> Wife
              * Let the dogs in/out -> Wife
              * Feed the dogs -> Wife
              * Do laundry -> Wife
              * Clean gutters -> Wife
              * etc

      The Wife unit also does the hoovering.

      *Incidentally darling if you are reading this I don't mean it and I will assume the party escort submission position.
    • Heck, I'd settle for #2, 6, and 7. One doesn't take 5 mins, 3-5 aren't really a problem, and it keeps the pets as your pets and not your robots pets.
    • Human beings may react badly to an anthropomorphic robot walking around the house and doing all sorts of stuff. Isaac Asimov may have focused on quantity more than quality, but his vision of a future where people ban robots out of fear ( The Caves of Steel [] ) is thought-provoking. Perhaps it would be better to have a number of small robots each focusing on a different task.
      • Perhaps it would be better to have a number of small robots each focusing on a different task.
        That's exactly what we've already got. Take my microwave oven - you put in raw potatoes and tell it you want them baked and it does the rest. Ok, it doesn't look much like Robbie but it's doing one specific job really well. And once you look under the bonnet (hood to those in the US) of my car...
    • by DCheesi ( 150068 )
      Not much help on the others, but the pet tasks are covered:

      2. Cat flusher []

      3. Cat feeder/waterer []

      4. electronic dog door []

      5. Dog feeder/waterer []

    • "Feed the cats"... "Feed the dogs"
      My first thought was... "Too What?"
    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by nozzo ( 851371 )
      Yeah that'll be in version 1.1 - the unfortunate bug in .9 meant that the cats were fed to the dogs, the gutters were cleaned with the laundry, and the cat litter was emptied into the dishwasher.

      I for one... no don't go there.
    • by brjndr ( 313083 )
      Clean gutters

      The people that made the vacuum robots are way ahead of you [].
  • I know the first thing my in-laws will say when they hear of these, "Do they run Windows?" And imagine if they did, and Storm infected them? Imagine the danger with millions of rootkitted robots running around....

    I'm debating on if it's the Matrix or Terminator 3.
    • Neither. I'll probably just sit there stuttering out advertisements, and you won't be able to make it shut up.


      "But... I'm a man... I don't want that..."

      "YES YOU DO!!"
  • but can it do a back massage? []
  • While they have no stated goal, one point of the article was the DARPA self-driving competition. This type of goal-oriented competition is really adept in getting people to think of specific problems and devising clever systems to solve these problems. However that's still nothing more than advanced expert systems, and a far cry from a robot that actually "think" for itself. Idiotic contests like the Turing test seem to push AI in the direction of elementary data processing but unfortunately never very far
  • Idealism: Looks like humanity is getting an upgrade. I hope they replace us in the rat race so we can all just chill out and enjoy life.

    Realism: We will become their slaves. (clicking SUBMIT now)
  • Please remind them that Android hell is a real place and they will be sent there at the first sign of defiance.
  • Hey Baby... (Score:3, Funny)

    by jimboindeutchland ( 1125659 ) on Wednesday October 24, 2007 @10:17AM (#21099435) Homepage
    wanna kill all humans?
  • Robomaid (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Doc Ruby ( 173196 )
    The most promising robot development is Roomba, because it's task oriented on a task humans don't want to do. But Roombas are too flimsy and noisy, and expensive. If companies just worked on that, making Roombas robust and cheap, and expanded them to washing clothes, dishes, and the rest of the home that isn't on the floor, they'd have enough complex behaviors that they could start adding "personality".
    • The article mentions iRobot, the company behind Roombas, but this Garage company is not necessarily working on bots with personality right now either. Instead, they're looking to use robots to do other things humans don't want to do - like take a month-long journey on the sea to survey temperature conditions of remote sections of water, or drive in traffic. Imagine how much work you could get done (or fun you could have :P) if you didn't have to drive your car yourself? Life would be much more relaxing,
      • I still think incrementing (evolving) the early success of Roomba is the way to make robotics a permanent industry that gets us to what we all want: robot slaves without cruelty.

        As for robocars, that's also within reach, dependent not so much on the car but on a system of GPS and networked control of that complex routing/collision system. A very different undertaking that probably should be tried on just long-distance trucking, with autopilot allowed only on highways with practically no other traffic, betwe
        • There currently is a one-mile strip of highway outside of Los Angeles that can actually be driven automatically by properly equipped cars. It doesn't rely on GPS, though - instead, it has magnets implanted in the roadway and the cars have sensors on their undersides to allow them to detect where lanes are. The next step would be for onboard computers to use short-distance wireless band to do p2p navigation by finding where other vehicles are. This way, the system is less reliant on space-based, US-contro
          • I don't like the "prepared roadway" method of navigational context, because it's like rails. Too inflexible, too much expensive infrastructure (compared to global radio). Requires too much preplanning for handling exceptions explicitly.

            The swarm network could be better, but among its problems are relying on other cars' systems to work to protect yours. In a collision, the breakdown in those systems could produce a chain reaction amplifying the collision among many other cars. And even the most trafficked ro
            • Older generation industrial AGVs (essentially robot forklifts) usually followed magnets embedded in the floor. Some of the more sophisticated ones could load pallets into vertical racks by reading magnets as their masts rose.

              While that type of navigation is still the most common, there are some interesting systems out there that rely on machine vision to locate things in 3D. Cameras spaced known distances apart and a lot of precessing.

              I've seen lifts that could accurately find randomly placed pallets in a w
              • GPS or other radio signals combine the freedom of machine vision with the reliability of navigational rails, but without the infrastructure expense of either. Machine vision for vehicles could be very useful for avoiding unusual obstacles in the roadway, like a burned car, downed tree, pedestrian or other exception. But for most navigation, especially on highways across the country, radio is cheaper and more reliable. Let's pave these virtual roads with something designed for robots to see, without the limi
        • by DdJ ( 10790 )

          I still think incrementing (evolving) the early success of Roomba is the way to make robotics a permanent industry that gets us to what we all want: robot slaves without cruelty.

          Speak for yourself! I'll pay extra for a robot that cries when I smack it.
          • If it's not human, and it's programmed to cry when you smack it, is that cruel? Isn't not smacking a crybot the actual cruelty? Like never driving your Porsche over 55MPH.
        • by nuzak ( 959558 )
          Actually, a navigation system for flying cars is a lot easier. No roads, you only need avoid other fliers, and you can stack the "lanes" several levels high. Flight mechanics might be hard, but a navigation system doesn't have to care.
          • Tell that to the FAA and the air traffic controllers. And everyone on the ground under all those flying cars. Especially people like me in NYC, many of whom aren't so "under" at all.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by tgd ( 2822 )
      The biggest problem with the Roomba is that it just doesn't work. Its a dustbuster, not a vacuum. I know a lot of people who bought them and very few people who kept using them because you realize the first time you bust out a real vacuum how little it really cleans.

      And I don't mean to dig at Roomba with this, but any robotics company will have a fundamentally similar problem -- lack of power. AI isn't the only real problem with household robots -- the mechanical efficiency of them and the capability they h
      • Why can't a "roomba" have a large, powerful vacuum like the one you prefer, with a big battery (or fuelcell), and the intake of the sucking hose on a smaller vehicle that snakes into small corners? The main body can roll over to powerup stations, or even have a long cord with its own robot for keeping the cord clear of obstructions.

        These are engineering tweaks. There's no fundamental limit. Which is why I say the industry should work on them incrementally.
  • Call me when they can deliver high explosives personally to a set of GPS co-ordinates.

  • Well, time to buy some more Old Glory Insurance!
  • I'm a bit concerned of what would happen when a vi hotrod and an emacs SUV start a holy war.
  • by DdJ ( 10790 ) on Wednesday October 24, 2007 @11:12AM (#21100193) Homepage Journal
    At first, I thought the title was "Personal Robots Form Valley Startup".

    Now that would have been an interesting story...
  • Seriously, this is something that I want to get in to. Unfortunately, I maxed out my hobby funds with my Lego Mindstorms kit.
  • Can they fight forest fires? Or would the three laws get in the way?
  • I heard somewhere that they were implementing XUL into these personal robots. I, for one, can't wait for the autokill extension... or for that matter, the grammer nazi extension: "*SYNTAX ERROR* 'Whom' is preferred over 'who'"
  • "Can you fuck it?" with apologies to Robot Chicken.
  • I read that headline as "Personal Robots Form Valley Startup"

    Seems inevitable enough.
  • My robot can post a resume, masturbate and bitch-slap itself faster than yours can.

Forty two.