Developing a robot worth buying


picture.
No, not meant to be sarcastic. I've owned and operated a small business since 1987. One of these days, I'm going to actually make some money :)

don't

(Happened

Hmmm, when I envision this scenario, I see the guardbot as a part of a complete security package. Fence, camera, moat with crocodiles, trained chimpanzees with AK47's, etc.
BTW, I am here to attempt to engage in constructive dialogue. If I start acting trollish, please let me know, sometimes I can be rather insipid.
Thanks,
Joe

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joecoin wrote:

The only beef I have is that you were posting some really good stuff to comp.robotics.misc and misc.business.product-dev (thus being a big help to me in trying to get enough critical mass to revive that dead newsgroup), then you went back to posting to comp.robotics.misc alone.
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Sorry Guy, but I did not post to misc.business.product-dev. Ever. Someone must have dragged my posts along in a reply?
Joe
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mlw wrote (snip)
Mlw, why did you post to comp.robotics.misc and misc.business.product-dev with followups set to comp.robotics.misc only? I assure you that posts about this topic are more than welcome in misc.business.product-dev.
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It would need to have AI suficient for self compiling and self error-correcting and it would need to be offered in colors like the iMac and iPod --- have an extended charge battery power pack and a plugin recharger and be able to speak in the major five languages in a user friendly manner at the touch of a button (and be able to translate what it said in the other fours - upon command.
An iBot like that would sell so well it would make you richer than Bill Gates. When that happens please remember me ( www.apple2.org.za/gswv/me ) and send a few million dollars (US) to me.
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Guy Macon wrote:

One that has a wireless connection to a PC to take advantage of the computing power of a PC and the ease with which it can be programmed using BASIC or C to get the robot to do "interesting" things without the user having to be an expert on the Windows OS or the Linux OS.
-JC
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Guy Macon wrote:

Regardless of the on board computer used a useful robot should have a wireless connection to the home computer to make use of its power and ease of programming to get the robot to do "interesting" things.
A bonus for a non-professional programmer would be the availability of library to make use of any on board sensors or actuators for programming those devices and a tutorial showing how to use those libraries from Java or even C or BASIC.
-JC
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(Repost of an article posted in comp.robotics.misc)
Organization: Broken Acres Electronics
Date: Sun, 19 Jun 2005 01:05:49 GMT

That's scary,

I've never heard the term "nothing technology" before. Can you elaborate? Is there a cutoff between a "nothing technology" and a "something technology"?

Ford.
For

I assume you mean "10 to 100". This is true of the business world in general.

Not neccesarily. If there is a clear cut need for a product, and that product can be produced cheaper than it can be sold, it will be developed. Or else the government will develop it.

If you mean autonomous robotics, I agree.

Geez, I'm still learning.
We built some cool

No, it just drives their insurance premiums way up and causes lawsuits. How do you kill a robot?

Therefore, all security guards are morons. Hmmmm...

It is up to the collective "we" to bring that cost down.

Aibo. Target market?

And mine also, of course.
Joe
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Just some random thoughts on the subject...
I like gadgets. I like things that do "cool" or interesting things that entertain me. I like things that can be change to do something else, either be design or by experiment. I like things that teach me, that help me learn. I like things that can be used in new ways. In short, I like things that can evolve with my interests. I pay a lot of money for my "toys" that fit this need; PS2 games, PDA, computers, robotic projects. I think that to some degree this is all true of EVERY robot builder. I think this need for entertainment that can change with us is the underlying reason most of us are interested in robots.
That being the case, your product not only needs to be interesting or useful right out of the box, but it needs to be designed with the idea that the customer will want to upgrade, change, or modify it from your original design. The market is full of fixed-use robotic products (motor controllers, h-bridges, robotis toys and "kits" that have no flexibility, etc, etc) and it's unlikely you'll have much success trying to sell another one. If you want to produce a sucessful product, make it flexible, or at least hackable. As an example, look at the RoboSapien. It's just another robotic toy, but it was designed right from the begining with the idea that it could/would be "hacked" by the customer. This one idea is probably what has made it so sucessful where so many other toys were not. As another example, look at the Lego Mindstorm kits. It's a nothing more than plastic pieces that fit together, a couple of incredibly simple sensors, and a controller "brick"; yet it's made $Millions.
I guess my point is, regardless of what you make, design it so that it can be changed from YOUR orginal design into OUR unique designs.
WEC
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A person who shall remain unnamed broke the thread so that a bunch of your replies are now only going to comp.robotics.misc. Anyone reading misc.business.product-dev is missing your replies.
I invite you to rejoin the conversation in misc.business.product-dev by crossposting there.
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Hope I'm not too late for this discussion. I think one of the difficulties in discussing such a topic is that many of us are either in the same position that you are or have dreams to one day be. I have a few ideas that I think are great for example, but I selfishly don't want to share them.
I like robotics because the more i read about it and the more forums and chat groups i subscribe to the more I realize just how small of technical community it has and how much opportunity lies in its future. A few months ago there was an article I believe in Technology Review that said robotics today is where computers were in 1978. Also I'm an electronics nerd and nerds just can't help loving robots. They get us a lot of chicks.
I see two promising paths in robotics. One is to create mostly mechanical devices. Things such as the infamous Romba that require little intelligence and a lot of mechanics. A good starting market for these applications would be healthcare. Especially with the baby boom reaching old age (hope i didn't offend anyone) there will be a larger need for cheaper, easier, always available help, and healthcare has a lot of money. You can as stated before hire someone for $5.65 an hour to sweep streets or stock shelves, but 24 hour health service is a huge expense. Much of the cost could be avoided with proper monitoring devices and some assisting mechanisms. If your target is robotic hobbyists this may not be the path to take, since each application will require completely different mechanical parts. You could however market simple mechanical drivers or mechanical sets. Lego Mindstorms and the relatively new Vex Robotics www.vexrobotics.com do this on a small scale.
The other is to work on intelligence. If you transmit video and control of the bot wirelessly you can make a robot as intelligent as your computers and software allow at no additional power requirement. This is the route I'm taking. I think it'd be an attractive product of hobbyists. Just pop in your software and you've got a smart robot. Yet hobbyists, atleast ones in college like myself don't like paying for big software packages. I think this is a very promising area if you're looking long term. Intelligence is our limiting factor right now. We need a robot that can talk back to us, take complicated instructions, drive our car, clean our house, go to work for us. I think mechanically we can pretty much do that today but we're not even close on the software end. Who's going to design the os for robots? When windows won't even be used anymore because there are no PCs, just personal robots. If its me I'll give you each a free copy!
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DaveFowler wrote:

In my opinion, if the people working on the early computers in 1978 had selfishly not shared their ideas, it would have dleayed the revolution and given the glory to someone else who was willing to share.

Excellent point. I saw an ad yesterday about a device that lets an elderly woman move a quadraplegic spouse from bed to wheelchair without having to do any lifting. There is going to be a need for more devices like that.

I have become convinced that the hobby market is a losing proposition at this time. It really is oversaturated.

I agree. Putting the smarts in a standard PC with a radio or IR link is much better than using a microcontroller. It splits the task into two subtasks; [1] Can I make this thing smart using my 3gHz 500GB brain? [2] After I solve [1], how small can I make the brain?
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Guy Macon wrote:

If you are looking towards the full humanoid style robot I think we need to take a closer look at the way the control and intelligence functions are distributed throughout the body (its not all in the brain - apparently). This would indicate that we should consider implementing a hierarchical framework of controllers and computing units in some form of mesh connection.
The advantage of the meshed network is that, although more involved during the design and development phase, will end up being much more robust in operation. This also should help with making a more inteligent unit as the processing power required is shared out amongst a number of processors and thus simplifies the programming of the higher brain functions.
I am suspecting that the project, at the full humanoid android level, may take a significant amount of your remaining life unless you get a wider input from the right sort of willing people. Of course there are simpler tasks that can be accomplished without the need for an humanoid android format.
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DaveFowler wrote:
[...]

This is not an area limited to or even the province of electronic nerds and/or software experts.

I don't think "big software packages" are the limiting factor. Creative new insights into what it means to be intelligent is the limiting factor. There are cheap and even free developmental tools. It is what you cannot buy, ideas, that is the limiting factor. Although if you lack the software/ hardware expertise you may be limited in your ability to implement those ideas.

This is essentially a newsgroup about hardware such as PID control and H-bridges etc.
Anyone who comes up with novel/new ideas about how to make a robot smarter will not be giving them away in a newsgroup :)
[...]
JC
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JGCASEY wrote:

Actually, comp.robotics.misc is about any aspect of robotics and misc.business.product-dev is about any aspect of product development, so a discussion about someday being able to develop intelligent robots is on-topic in both groups.

I disagree. True, there will always be the paranoid inventor who thinks that his ideas are So Valuable That They Must Not Be Revealed, but for every person like that there is another person who realizes that having a small piece of a big pie is better than having 100% of a pie that never gets made. In addition, it assumes that the only way to protect an invention is with trade secret protection. Anyone who comes up with a novel/new idea about how to make a robot smarter *and patents it* will have no problem revealing those ideas in a newsgroup - they are already revealed in the patent.
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Guy Macon wrote:

Robotics is essentially about hardware and its software support, not about AI or philosophizing about how one day robots might become intelligent. comp.ai.philosophy is a more suitable place for such day dreams.
I wasn't suggesting that you couldn't discuss about someday being able to develop intelligent robots, only that comp.robotics.misc has not been for that purpose.

If you come up with a novel/new idea to make a robot smarter you sell the patent to Microsoft, as they have the financial clout to enforce it, and retire to the Bahamas :)
If I could come up with an answer to your subject line, "Developing a robot worth buying", that wasn't already being done, I would not reveal it on the newsgroup.
There is plenty of useful stuff that can be exchanged that is of no personal commercial value. To give away a commercially viable good idea would be just plain neglectful to your family and yourself.
JC
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Guy Macon wrote:

Robotics is essentially about hardware and its software support, not about AI or philosophizing about how one day robots might become intelligent. comp.ai.philosophy is a more suitable place for such day dreams.
I wasn't suggesting that you couldn't discuss about someday being able to develop intelligent robots, only that comp.robotics.misc has not been used for that purpose.
The average "robot" hasn't the brain capacity of a slug let alone any kind of potential for "human intelligence".
They are little more than animatrons which we can imagine are something more because they have a fancy PID system or can even balance on two wheels. This is what hardware/software engineers have been trained to do. AI is another ball game.

If anyone could come up with an answer to your subject line, "Developing a robot worth buying", that wasn't already being done, they would not reveal it on the newsgroup. They would be out there doing it.
JC
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JGCASEY wrote:

I agree, up to a point, but I also have a real-world counterexample; the AI used to animate the opponents in modern computer games is getting to be quite sophisticated. I see no reason why a robot can't attain the same level of intelligence.

So you keep saying. In the real world, things don't always work out that way. Look at aviation 1900-1920, for example. There was plenty of open discussion about aircraft design going on. Those with the answers to "how can man fly" did not always keep those answers secret. There were many people who had part of the answer or who had good ideas but lacked the resources to turn them into aircraft.
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Guy Macon wrote:

Maybe that's what you need then? A robot that can be programmed like a character in a game. This is a subject for thread of its own I think?
JC
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An excellent idea. If there is a gap in the hobby market to be plugged that I think would be it. In my spare time I have been putting together a robot for the primary purpose of having a platform to write intelligence programs on. I found very little easy platforms. I ended up going with a vex robotics set and a laptop. The lego mindstorms have an easy to work with interface but are limited in their strength and in their sensors. The vex robotics set www.vexrobotics.com is impressive but so far the programming sux, since they haven't come out with their programming module. They will in august though... But I think there is a need for robots for programmers. People who like C++ and not programming and designing motor drivers and controllers. It could be just a simple robot with 3 wheels, couple of arms, and a co uple of web cams. You could make them somewhat unexpensive if you were able to do it all with just a microcontroller or an fpga. You'd just have to have the cameras wireless. I have a friend currently looking into hooking up some 2.4g transmitters to a microcontroller. If we can hook a couple cheap web cams up to that we'll have a an easy single controller for both the vision and controls of the robot all transmitting over 2.4g WLAN. This way all the data can be processed by a computer plugged into your wall. If you had easy function calls worked in for moving the arms, reading sensors, and moving the robot this would be a seriously convenient tool. I haven't found any platform like this yet making it pretty darn tough for someone with little or no desire or no knowledge or desire for the low level electronics to get into high end robotics. Wait, maybe this isn't a good idea. Lets keep robotics to just those of us who do both :).
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