Business, Entertainment - Written by Steve Guengerich on Wednesday, August 5, 2009 10:49 - 3 Comments
Robot Mass Collaboration
I’ve been closely watching some of the activity around robotics, biomechanics, and mechatronics for awhile. Aside from my childhood fascination with robots on the Jetsons (had a crush on Judy) and Lost in Space (wanted to be Will), I really got intrigued when I started regularly following the work at the MIT Media Lab. Fast forward to 2009 and I’d venture to say that interactive, remote controlled robots and other robotic-like devices are poised to enter mainstream use within the decade.
It’s already begun, really, if you include the factory-based robots at modern manufacturers or offerings such as iRobot’s Roomba and other products for the home. But, with advances in wireless communications, broadband connectivity, continuing miniaturization and commoditization of components like cameras, power supplies, batteries, motors, etc., the next wave of robots at work and home is getting within reach – and they will be available on a mass scale.
For example, at the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES 2009) earlier this year, a team from Anybots debuted their new device, tentatively called QA. You can watch a video of QA running through a few of its paces in its home lab. Cool things about QA include: wireless, internet-based control; human height and good mobility; and 2-way telepresence.
Not cool: $30,000 USD suggested price, at the moment, which is mainly due to each model being hand-crafted until they can forge a manufacturing partnership that gets scale. (That’s the goal anyhow.)
For another example of a robot still in development and prototyping, take a look at one of the side projects of fellow Wikinomics colleague, Alan Majer. I find the fine-grained degree of precision in the movement of this prototype very impressive. Again, remotely controlled and wireless through the Internet.
But as frequently happens, it may well be that someone like Will Wright – the brains behind The Sims and Spore – will be among the first to crack the code of mass collaborative robots. For example, take a look at this intriguing video demo of CopyCat, a lab prototype that is nominally a project of Wight’s StupidFunClub.
Now, think about if I have a CopyCat and you have a CopyCat and a dozen of our best Facebook friends have CopyCats? Well, it takes the idea of a FB “poke” to a whole new level of meaning! I’m looking forward to seeing how this and other robotic technologies percolate to the broader global audience.
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