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Lack of hardware focus at Google IO 2012?


android_usb?android at home

project tungsten






The schedule for Google IO 2012 has been released, and it doesn’t look like there are any sessions dedicated to hardware. This is kind of surprising, considering how much attention was paid to HW last year. At Google IO 2011 a good 15 minutes of the Day 1 Keynote was spent discussing the open accessory API, plus Android @ Home and Project Tungsten. There were technical sessions dedicated to the Open Accessory API, Cloud Robotics, and NFC. And remember the giant “labyrinth” game set up to demonstrate on a large scale? Google hasn’t done a whole lot since then to promote these different projects. I’m not sure if they’ve pushed Android@Home or Tungsten at all, although I guess there are some rumors about a multimedia device going around.

Even beyond the lack of continued support for things they announced last year, there have also been a few developments since then that should be worthy of a few sessions, right?

  • Google has an autonomous vehicle, and even a license to operate on the road! But no sessions to discuss the self-driving car project?
  • Google is acquiring Motorola Mobility, one of the premier mobile device makers. Not a whole lot has been said about this, but I guess they’ve been waiting for approval (and I see that just today China has approved the deal)
  • Google is now selling the Galaxy Nexus device direct to consumers, which is a pretty big shift in hardware delivery strategy
Maybe it’s just a little early to tell what they’re up to. Maybe more will be made in the Keynote presentations instead of the technical breakout sessions. But if they’ve actually made some progress on these projects (for instance, if the rumors are true and Android@Home will be supported in Jelly Bean) it would probably be good to start training developers on how to actually implement these things…



New Applications For Industrial Robots (virtual conference)

Back in May, I wrote about the first Robotics Virtual Conference held by online robotics media firm RoboticsTrends. The idea is simple – instead of travelling to attend a physical trade show, you can attend online via a web-based interface. The result is not so simple. Vendors struggle to figure out how to present information on their physical robot product in a virtual world, which results in just a mess of file downloads. I think I downloaded 40 or so files (pdfs, whitepapers, and videos) from the exhibitors, but only found the time and energy to go through a dozen or so. The “booths” are attended by one or more employees, almost like a chat room, so you can get some actual conversation in. So you’re talking one-on-one with someone (who’s probably talking to other people at the same time). At a real show, a lot of people tend to mill around and listen in on other conversations, either they don’t know what to ask or don’t want to intrude on a potential sale. So the experience is pretty different. For a first-time event though, I have to cut them some slack. There were very few technical issues, hopefully they’ll have them cleaned up.

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Ready for the Robotics Virtual Conference?

The Robotics Summit Virtual Conference Series starts soon, and I’m curious to see how it goes. The first event is Autonomy, Navigation, & Mobility Solutions on June 16.

I’ve worked as an exhibitor at dozens of industrial trade shows and conferences in the past, for the general industrial robotics market (Robot & Vision) to specific processes (Packaging, Assembly, Semiconductor, Solar, Medical Manufacturing, etc), so I know what it takes to prepare and staff a booth in the real world. But I’m not entirely sure what goes on for a virtual event.

Instead of talking face to face with someone about their technology, I’ll be “chatting live” with people from the company. This just conjures up memories of the online customer service from companies like Comcast.

Some of the presentations should be worthwhile – after all, it’s the same presentation whether I’m watching it in a room crammed with people or at my desk.

It’s the physicality of robots that I’m going to miss though. I’m in this industry because I like robots – I like making stuff move with just a program, I like the intricacy of the mechanical parts moving all together. The robotics world (industrial and mobile) was created by tinkerers and hands-on geeks, people who like to take things apart and make them better (or at least different). I don’t know if you can generate the same level of excitement about a gadget with a virtual conference.

Despite my reservations, I’ll be attending, and am looking forward to learning a bit. If you’re interested, check out the agenda, and register (it’s free so what have you got to lose). I’m curious to know what other people get out of it as well. I must say though, as an engineer at an industrial robotics company I’m a little more interested in the next conference, New Applications for Industrial Robotics on September 15. I’ll try to give a full report here of what I learn at the event, and how I think it goes.


National Robotics Week

National Robotics Week 2010 has come and gone, but left some cool robotics tech in its wake.

Wednesday’s Robot Block Party at Stanford was a blast, got to see some really cool displays from Willow Garage, Intuitive Surgical, Adept Technology, the Stanford Stickybot and DARPA Urban Challenge vehicle

Robot Block Party:


Then on Friday Adept had an Open House with lots of demos to show:

WiiMote-Controlled robot featuring an AdeptQuattro robot picking and placing parts on a moving robot, controlled by the user wielding a Nintendo Wii controller:


Here, the visitor draws graffiti onto an Apple iPad using GraffitiAnalysis. The tags are uploaded to a server, then downloaded by the robot controller and repeated in realtime:


And more demos (other videos may come later).

I may come back later and add more detail about some of the tech, but that’s a brief recap! Some pictures can be found on the flickr page, some videos on YouTube, look for the tags roboweek and roboweek2010!


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