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Sunday, September 12, 2010

Robot Market Watch 2010

iRobot CEO Colin Angel claimed recently in Wired that there is no good business model for a robot servant.
Nobody wants to pay massive amounts of cash for the androids the company is capable of making today.

Chief engineer Satoshi Shigemi, project leader of the ASIMO development, Honda R&D Co., Ltd said in an interview with Infonaut, that Honda has so far only reached about 10 percent of its technological targets for commercial humanoid robots. Much more research and development is needed before humanoids can be sold on consumer markets. Many issues such as safety, reliability, user friendliness are critical, human-robot interaction has to be considered carefully, even power supply is critical. Honda is focusing on human-robot interaction research to examine the diverse levels of robot acceptance and interaction around the world. The aim of this research is to better understand what the ideal interaction and communication between people and humanoid robots ought to be in the future. People need to be able to comfortably communicate with the robot so that it can react properly to their commands and carry out their wished when assistance is needed.
In his opinion consumer robotics is still in its infancy and it will take many years until affordable partner robots will be available on the market.

In the meantime new robots are developed to attract researchers and early business adopters. Some of the latest developments are new personal robot platforms and mobile telepresence robots.

PR2 - Personal robot platform
Willow Garage has announce that PR2, a robot platform for research and development is officially for sale. PR2 is priced at $400,000 but for individuals with a proven track record in contributions to the open source
community, the company also introduced an award which amounts to a $120,000 discount on PR2 purchases.

YouBot - Mobile robot arm 
Geman KUKA Robotics has unveiled a omni-directional mobile platform called "YouBot" with a 5 DOF
manipulator mobile robot. YouBot is prized € 19.990 excl. VAT and shipment and will be shiped in December 2010. Universities and research facilities are eligible for a 20% academic discount on KUKA youBot hardware. Early bird discount of 25% on KUKA youBot hardware is available until 15. September

Telepresence robots 
A new generation of telepresence robots is now available in the US for those who need to be att two places
at one. Telepresence robots are remote controlled cameras on wheels and connected via Wi-Fi to the users
computer or moble phone. The user can communicate via a "human-scale" robot with other people and
move around a workplace or home from anywhere.

VGO from Vgo Communications is a 4 foot high robot with a 7 inch display screen, camera auto-tilts based on drive speed. top 4,4 km/h (2,75 mph), text-to-speech, remote monitoring headlights and auto-docking to the charger. His battery life is around 6-10 hours of use. Vgo works over Wi-Fi, with a recommended bandwidth of at least 384kbps for good streaming of the H.264 video and audio. It´s four microphones provides good all-round audio pick-up in meeting scenarios. His camera can be positioned for "any view"
with a 60 degrees field of view. Finally, the dedicated Vgo app includes easy driving controls and works on any Windows PC with Webcam, speakers and mic attached. VGO is prized $ 4.995.

Tilr from RoboDynamics was introduced in 2007 and is a human-scale robot (3,8 or 4,2 foot high) with a 8 inch touch screen, and a 55 degrees camera view. Top speed is 3,9 km/h (2,4 mph). Web-based controls, video communication via Skype, Google Video Chat or MSN. The Tilr is prized $10.000.

Anybot QB
QB from Anybots, unveiled in May 2010 is an self-balancing, two-wheel drive robot, 2,6 to 6 foot high, with a 3,5 inch screen. Top speed is 5,6 km/h (3,5 mph). QB is prized $ 15.000

RP-7 Intouch Health
In the high-end segement is the RP-7 from InTouch Health, a 5,5 foot high robot with a 15 inch screen. RP-7 is FDA-cleard and connects directly to Class II medical devices including electronic stethoscopes, otoscopes and ultrasound. The RP-7 units sell for about $120,000 each, but most accounts are leasing the units for between $5.000 to $ 7.000 a month.

Willow Garage is developing a telepresence robot called Texai. It is 5,2 foot high and has a 15 inch screen. Top speed is 1,5 mph. No price available yet.

In Europe French Robosoft and US-Swedish Giraff Technologies are also developing telepresence robots targeting elderly and health care markets.  Robosoft has announced an agreement with US start-up Hoaloha Robotics to work collaboratively on the design of a socially assistive robot. See here.

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