Why I Don’t Like Telepresence Robots – YET

Telepresence robots seem to be a hot topic in the news these days – there have been a lot of articles written about them lately! The tech blogs are all buzzing with their stories of driving robots around exotic (or mundane) office buildings and interacting with people, and it seems like nearly every day there’s news of another product in development. With all this excitement, I feel almost obligated to try and find some solid ground, and not get too swept up in the movement.

Don’t get me wrong – I think there is a tremendous future here, and I’m looking forward to spending some time behind the “wheel” of one of these soon. But I can’t help but think that there’s something…missing…in the current offerings.

Continue Reading →


Welcome to CreepyTown

You may have heard the phrase “Uncanny Valley” before. According to many, as robots continue to look more and more like real people, we tend to feel closer to them and accept them more – but only to a point. Past that point there’s a sense of fear and revulsion at something that looks almost human, corpselike, diseased, etc. Think of great horror movies where something’s just not quite right about the villain, like the masked Michael Myers in Halloween, or the twitchy crawling style of the dead girl in The Ring.

There’s a natural inclination to avoid the thing. Well, most of us, that is. Japanese robot engineer Hiroshi Ishiguro seems hell-bent on making the creepiest things he can imagine. You may have seen his Geminoid robot series, initially designed to look just like him but gradually evolved into the creepy female “Repliee” (now sold as “Actroid” – only $20,000 and you can have your own to scare the kids away at Halloween!)

Hiroshi Isiguro, trying hard to look just as lifeless as his Geminoid robot

Continue Reading →


Adept acquires MobileRobots, an insider’s perspective

Adept Technology, a leading provider of industrial robotics and automation (and my employer), announced on Monday that they would be acquiring MobileRobots Inc, a provider of industry leading autonomous robot and automated guided vehicle (AGV) technologies. I’ve been at Adept for about 10 years, and have been involved in some pretty cool technologies over the years. . However, nothing quite compares to the excitement of this venture into mobile robotics.

Continue Reading →


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.


Flying robot with amazing agility

Autonomous UAV

Normally I don’t pay a whole lot of attention to flying vehicle tech. It’s not that I’m not interested – on the contrary, there are some really cool videos out there. It’s just not my area of expertise; I’m not all that familiar with them. But like any good tech addict, I love a good demonstration of amazing ability.

One such demonstration (found thanks to Evan at BotJunkie) is this Quadrotor autonomous UAV, from GRASP Lab at the University of Pennsylvania.


The innovative people at GRASP lab seem to be working on a number of cool projects, including being one of the 11 members of Willow Garage’s PR2 Robot Beta Program.

PR2 Robot

Willow Garage PR2 Robot

Their proposal for the PR2:

University of Pennsylvania, GRASP Laboratory with the proposal PR2GRASP: From Perception and Reasoning to Grasping

The GRASP Lab proposal aims to tackle some of the challenges facing household robotics. These challenges include tracking people and planning for navigation in dynamic environments, and transferring handheld objects between robots and humans. Their contributions will include giving PR2 a tool belt to change its gripper on the fly, helping it track and navigate around people, and performing difficult two-arm tasks like opening spring-loaded doors.


Powered by WordPress. Designed by WooThemes