And good business that has good marketing also paints
their products all nice and shiny, knowing that the appearance
of a product is what sells it to most people.
Put an old car in the classifieds with horrible paint job. It
won't sell. Put a coat of paint on it, and everyone says
"wow, nice paint".
It doesn't matter what is on the inside. If the exterior
looks good, people buy. Judge a book by its cover.
Most people don't read them anyway.
Not jealous at all, a PC based robot is hardly my idea. I simply don't think
the whitebox design is targeted toward any real or potential market.
One of the problems with the "marketing" argument is the definition of the
"market." Sure, there may be a thousand different segments to which you
could market, but if each of the segments have a low population, you will
never attain a market size big enough to make your project profitable. In
order to make a profitable product, it has to have a wide enough appeal
that, at least some, benefits of scale start paying off.
Everyone who has a PC has different needs for thier PC, but that doesn't
mean that there are infinite markets. Unless you can specifically identify
a vertical marketplace, you have to create your product with the broadest
Unless you define and develop the robot sufficiently to perform a well
defined and marketable task, roomba for instance, your robot will be
relegated to tinkerers, people who are interested in learning or building.
Now, it is not as though aesthetics are not important, they really are, but
not at the expense of the product. Make no mistake, the whitebox robot is
an experimental platform, nothing more, nothing less, and as such does not
seem all that well suited toward that goal.
Yes, the White Box platforms seem to be targeted as an experimental
If I had had one before I started my book, I would have used
it as the main example.
Once this company gets going and lowers the prices a bit I
think that these will go well in the educational market and
in the experimenters market.
D. Jay Newman
The question is whether or not they will be able to lower thier prices. They
spent a lot of R&D money to get where they are. Unless they can find a
viable market to support them, they will have to keep the price high.
This "pre-sale" tactic indicates to me that they may not be able to fund
Of course. That way I could have given my readers
a complete turnkey system so that somebody who didn't
want to do the mechanics could just buy the base.
While they are targeting Windows with their software,
that doesn't matter since they sell the base without
a motherboard. This means I can put Linux on it just
D. Jay Newman
I notice that some are using Roomba as a
So you agree with me? Your robot is limited
to those computer science students interested
mainly in software development?
Anyone who is not a student, people like
yourself, already have the expertise, have
nothing to learn from it, and can build
their own version if they like.
A product with the broadest appeal will
have an entry point for each interest group.
Who woulda thunk there would be so much business in PC modding. Yet
there is, and there are some folks who spend an enormous amount of money
on this "hobby." There are entire Web sites that sell nothing but mod
parts, like cases with built-in Lava Lamps, or fluorescent panels that
pulse with the sound of music ("The 'bots are alive, with the sound of
The White Box robots are really highly-modded PCs. The biggest
difference is that they have wheels. There has never been a rule that a
PC can't have wheels. With a wireless keyboard and mouse (easy) and an
RF link to a monitor (fairly easy) your PC is now your robot. Or maybe
your robot is now your PC. Either way, will it matter?
Tom Burick wants to blur the line between the PC and the robot. He's not
the first one to do this. But he has taken the extra step of paying a
few hundred thousand bucks for injection molding dies to make it look
more appealing. No one buys a PC mod that's ugly.
Jay wants to build a PC-based robot with tracks so it will climb up
stairs. I keep trying to get him to move to a single-story house. Much
easier solution! <g>
I'm still debating the tracks for the stairs, and consdering many
And given the state of Lee's health, a single-story house would have
been a *really* good idea. Right now we have a townhouse and two
hospital beds in the living room. This gives Groucho very little
room to move about.
Actually I'm more concerned with the clutter than the stairs for
D. Jay Newman
Not really. My $500 linux robot project is aimed at engineers and hobbiests
interested in doing a robotic project that may not be directly involved
with the chassis.
Actually, I look at it 180 degrees differently. I am creating and
documenting a system, hopefully, in such a way that people need not know
the intricacies of the various components to accomplish their task.
I hope to provide a platform that does all the neat stuff, is easy to build
for yourself, and lets you focus on what you want to do.
Buy the stuff, use a hacksaw to cut angle aluminum, drill some holes,
install Linux, download and install the software, done. Yes that is a
simplification, but basically it should be reduced to a fairly simple
I think you apply what is feasible for you to everyone. Sure, for some, this
idea is great, for many others it is not. Its all simple to you, cause you
have a certain background, the time and the drive to do so. To you and most
of us on this group it sounds easy. Buy some metal, cut and drill it, find a
couple motors, hack a mouse, etc. But for an ever growing # of people
becoming interested in robotics, its not.
So your instructions say, go find a motor out of a toy car. This translates
into "spend hours looking for one of these toys and hope you get one
identical to mine.". What if it doesn't mount the same as yours? Now they
are on their own to adapt your instructions to the motor they got. What if
they didn't get the right voltage? What if their motors don't have same
speed? What if the motor controller you tell them to get can't handle the
motors? Oh, now they have to dispose of the rest of the toy. These are all
simple problems for you and I to address. To start with, we know what to
look for and we know how we could work around any differences. But for many,
there is a lot of time needed to figure out and learn all this stuff that
likely, they are not even interested in, especially when first getting into
Don't get me wrong, this is exactly the route some people *want* to take.
But your opinion based on this thread seems to be that the Whitebox robot is
a bad idea because everyone would rather spend a few hundred less and
countless hours to have a similar (and inferior) robot.
As for the cost, yes, $1200 seems like a lot. But I don't think it is that
much for what it is. The amount of time saved alone could easily make this
robot perfect and cost effective for many. What about warranty? How about
durability? How about tech support? Even the look is polished. What about
quality? I mean, the motors, wheels, frame, etc used in the Whitebox are
superior to your home brew bot.
Do you think your $500 is realistic for most? You are counting every piece
of wire, connector, screw, stand off, cotter pin, washer, etc, etc? In
addition to parts, many people are going to need to invest in tools. A lot
of people don't have anything more than some cheap screwdriver let alone a
drill, hacksaw, dremel, etc. Then factor in the time involved and the robot
you end up with at the end and the $1200 is not looking so bad for many.
Will I be buying a Whitebox bot? No. But then I have the know how, the
tools, the space, the motiviation and the *want* to build my own.
Ah, yes, tools! That's a whole new can of worms. But for me, I look for
anything that's an excuse to buy new tools.
BTW, nice to see the info on Lazlo again. I had lost track of it when
you changed domains, and didn't catch where it all went until now.
(Okay, I'm slow...)
To a growing number of people, reading an analog clock is becomming more
difficult. In any given population, only a certain percent of them will be
able to program a VCR.
The issue isn't reaching out to a broader audience, per se', but being able
to indentify a large enough audience to make it worth while. I like
Einstein's quote: "It should be as simple as possible, and no simpler."
Hopefully the person building the robot knows enough to think for
themselves, hense the part in the above quote: "... and no simpler."
Again, on the site: "a little skill, and some good old fashioned
scrounging." should speak volumes.
You can't make a product aimed at everyone unless it does nothing. A pet
rock for instance, has a very broad appeal. As you add specifying features,
you narrow your market. It just so happens that the hobby market is pretty
specific to people who like to build things.
Out of 1000 people interested in building a robot themselves, how many do
you think would have a problem building something out of angle aluminum and
toy car wheels? If you say 10, that's 1% and not a problem. If you say 100,
that's 10% and still not a real problem. If you say 350, that's 35% and
still not a problem. If you say 800, then that's 80% not a problem if the
overall population of the set is a few million.
You can't market to everyone, you have to identify your audience.
That is a choice people will make.
I do, and I'll tell you why. You and I could probabely build the equivilent
device for a similar amount of money. That is a bad starting point for a
consumer item. When you deliver a product to consumers, it should be
something better than they can build for themselves and far cheaper.
Do you have *any* idea of what it would cost your or I to hand wirewrap a PC
motherboard? Buying a PC motherboard is a no brainer because the economies
of scale have made it much cheaper.
The whitebox robot offers no real advantage for the experimenter. It may
save some time, but it doesn't save any real money, and to the hobbiest, it
isn't "thiers." Don't underestimate that hobbiests want the pride of
True, but an easly remedied sort of thing for a hobbiest. One of the things
I want to stress on the web site is that this is a minimalist sort of thing
and that the builders should feel free to improve at will.
"Most" of whom?
Have you ever watched cooking shows or automotive shows? There is an
expectation of a certain level of pre-existing criteria. The $500 dollar
robot is just such a project.
Again, "This old house" assumes you own the tools, doesn't it?
and my $500 robot is an ideal, a target. When I've found and identified all
the peices that bring it in under $500 then I'm done. Does that mean you
wouldn't want to make it better? Does that mean it is not a good source for
code and techniques?
It isn't so much a "Build *this* robot" as it is "build *your* robot"
This is my point, you seem to look at the people in this hobby as all
wanting to *build* a robot. Many do, many don't. I've been in a few robotics
clubs and have lots of engineering friends (mostly software) and have met
several people that are not interested in building the actual robots. They
just want to program a robot to do cool things. Some don't want to build the
robot because they don't have intrest. Some don't want to because they don't
have the time.
Are you saying that if someone doesn't want to build a robot, then go away?
Compaines shouldn't make robots like Whitebox's?
You think so? Are you talking the whole Whitebox robot, just like you see it
on the site? I recently started a business building a consumer electronics
device and manufacturing a complex device such as this is not cheap. I would
really like to see you build the same thing for $1200, not even counting the
# of hours designing and building it or tools needed (which you apply no
Thats not a valid comparison in this instance.
Again, this is showing your closed mindedness to the people that make up
"Most" was a poor choice of words. Meant "many". People that I describe in
the paragrapgh following this sentance.
Actually, in many of the shows I watch (I'm very much into cars as well)
they are constanly explaining the tools, where you can get them and how much
they cost. Many times they proceed the show telling you about special tools
you need for the project and their costs to buy or rent. Most the shows I
watch also start off by telling you how much time will be invloved.
Again, they explain the tools and their costs all the time. They constantly
explain the cost of hiring someone for specific part of the project, various
tools and rental costs, etc. They don't ever base the costs of a project on
the materials alone.
By "ideal" you mean starter? My argument is nothing about whether your robot
would be a good source for coding or not. Its that you dismiss the Whitebox
robot because you think it doesn't have a place just because *you* where
able to build something similar for less. You seem to assume everyone wants
to go the same path as you. That they even have the time to do so. You put
little to value in the amount of time involved, the *want* to do this
approach, and having the tools and space to do so.
Hey, I never said they "shouldn't," I have said that I doubt it will fill a
viable market segment.
Assume these characteristics:
The build it yourself crowd won't pay much money, they want something cheap
on which they can build, or build it from scratch. Does that seem like a
The "buy" it crowd, unless directly employed in the field, will only buy it
if it is within their "hobby budget" or desposable income level.
Either way, unless it fills a specific need that adds value beyond the
hobby, you are bumping up against the customer's descretionary spending
limit. $1000 is a lot of descretionary spending cash.
There is a difference between building something for a specific task and
something for education or hobby interests.
Hint: when debating a topic, debate the topic, not what you think the other
person is thinking. The facts stand for themselves, bringing in my, or any
others supposed personality traits, is an ad hominem attack and shows that
you have to critisize a person because you can't discuss the topic.
In short, your sentence was intended to insult and discredit me thus
attempting to indirectly discredit my opinion.
Whether or not you think I am "close minded" is irrelevant. I still assert
that hobbyists want the "pride of accomplishment," and unless you can post
something to refute this statement, it stands regardless of your assertions
of my supposed closed mindedness.
Many is a relative term, and sometimes a few of something is enough.
Obviously the expain "special" tools, by the assume everyone has
screwdrivers and wrenches, true?
Again, out of the ordinary tools, obviously.
"This Old House" no, but many of the improvement shows, including custom car
shows, talk about "weekend rebuilds," or "things you can do for under $$$"
I mean, low entry cost. It takes very little to get reward. The "instant
NO, I think I've articulated why I don't think it will work, it isn't about
my, it is about how I think I see the market.
Hint: when posting to Usenet, try not to come off as monumentally
arrogant when expressing an opinion. That way, you won't feel the need
to defend yourself against "ad hominem" attacks every other post. This
is not to say that you ARE monumentally arrogant -- I don't know you
personally -- but you come off that way.
Hint: there's no need to spend three paragraphs defending yourself
against "ad hominem attacks". It's undignified. Plus, until you've
gotten into a discussion of any length with R. Steve Waltz, you really
don't know the meaning of "ad hominem attack".
Hint: grow a thicker skin -- it's Usenet.
Bonus Hint: don't start a paragraph with "Hint:". It's condescending and
makes you come off as monumentally arrogant. Only I (and I alone) can
get away with this.
(Replies: cleanse my address of the Mark of the Beast!)
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