From Singularity Hub:
Bangkok’s First Robot Restaurant Full of Motoman Waiters (video) Singularity Hub
Ok, so I’ve seen Motoman‘s Dexter Bot before, most notably as the RoboBar:
And i think it’s really cool. It shows a very different concept of human-robot interaction and collaboration. The thing that’s most unique about this, in my opinion, is that it’s an industrial arm that’s been built to do more humanoid things, as opposed to a lot of the mechanisms out there, which seem to come from the hobby field. Mechanisms coming from such different backgrounds, while both considered “robots”, have very different characteristics, good and bad.
The industrial robots are going to be structurally much more solid, because the manufacturers have had a decade or two to fine-tune them for their markets. These are typically assembly/factory lines, and (especially for articulated arms) welding and painting. These require a very stiff mechanism, the engineers have tuned the resonant frequencies to reduce jitter and improve settling time, they can pack the most efficient motors and gearboxes into them, balance the weight of the links against the power required to move them and the resulting performance. They are marvels of engineering, but tend to be rather expensive ($40-$60k for a reasonably small robot arm), and are often ugly and clunky-looking
(as an example, the SV-3 from Motoman, the precursor to the HP3 used in DexterBot)
On the other hand, mechanisms that come from the hobby industry tend to be significantly cheaper, sexier looking, and have more of a friendly appearance to them.
But the DexterBot is starting to bridge that gap. It comes from an industrial arm (the HP3), but doesn’t have any use in an industrial environment. It’s almost completely useless to the current factory market – it’s way too slow to be a suitable replacement for human workers, it’s way too expensive to be competitive with automation solutions. Likewise, it has almost no value in the non-industrial market for the same reasons – too slow and expensive to compete with a minimum-wage cook, for sure.
So what’s the point?
It’s a step. A money-loser but a market-grower. It opens the eyes of the industrial robot manufacturers to the concept of human-robot collaboration, shared workspace, and consumer uses for industrial products. Just like Honda’s Asimo robot wasn’t cost-effective, it did its share of climbing obstacles (figuratively and literally) to open our eyes to real walking robots. Don’t expect to see DexterBot serving you drinks at your local dive bar, but expect more of the industrial robots to be used in consumer-friendly spaces.