"Home Robotics" musings - what needs to be done
July 7, 2013
Hey guys. I wrote this two years ago before creating my robot. Obviously my vision has a long way to go. But I felt then and now that the biggest issue I could help overcome was the mobility side of the equation. Check this out and tell me where I'm wrong! I won't be happy until there is a robot in every home! :o)
Arti – Articulated Mobile Reconnaissance Platform
Helpful – practical – mobile – affordable – friendly – easy to use
The state of the home robotics industry has been one of chaotic disappointment. Moore’s law – which promises the doubling of processing speed at half the price every eighteen months – has long been argued to usher in a new era of home robotics. The science fiction promise of a robot companion or worker in every home has long been the force both pulling and pushing innovation. However, the realities have been far from resembling the promise. The reasons for this repeated disappointment are primarily two fold.
First, although the prescience of Moore’s law has certainly proven true and has every expectation to be fulfilled for at least the next decade, it applies to hardware, and not sophisticated software logic and code. Simply stated, it has been much harder than anticipated to develop the operating systems needed to run the artificial intelligence required for a valuable home robot.
Second, by the nature of the purists who are most interested in robotics – science fiction fans, technically oriented hobbyists, and academicians – the efforts and goals have been too far reaching and the results have been too complex and difficult to use. There has been an over reliance or desire for humanoid forms. There has been an assumption of technical prowess of the owner. There has been an unrealistic desire to have all of the processing capabilities fully onboard the robot.
However, there has been some success: Aldebaran’s Nao, iRobot’s Romba vacuum cleaner and their most recent prototype Ava, healthcare specific InTouch Technologies (primarily telepresence), KIVA systems (warehouse robots), Mobile Robots, Inc., Yujin iRobi, Whitebox Robotics, RoboDynamics’ Luna, and the creations from Honda and Sony.
But all of these players are missing some or many critical functionalities in order for their robots to be suitable for home companion use. A successful home companion robot should be helpful, practical, mobile, affordable, friendly, and easy to use.
Helpful: it needs to actually do something for the owner that provides immediate value
Practical: it needs to be available, always on, accessible, etc.
Mobile: it needs to be able to traverse the building in an easy and timely manner
Affordable: it needs to be priced between the cost of a nice PC and a car
Friendly: it needs to have a strong “conversational AI” for fun and enjoyment
Easy to use: no-hassle guarantee. It works even for non-technical folks upon delivery
The key “must haves” for home companion robots are:
- Fully set up and supported by technical professionals – technical skills must not be needed to own and operate
- Full home and timely mobility (must be able to easily climb variable stairs, self aware location, spatial mapping, obstacle avoidance, ability to follow owner, etc.)
- Full access to and utilization of local network and the Internet to “offload” high level processing needs
- Telepresence – ability to communicate with others (automated cell phone dialing, Skype, email, texting, etc.)
- External control option so loved ones, physicians, care takers, etc. can easily communicate with owner
- Intelligent verbal and visual (voice and screen) responses
- RealVoice™ conversational tone and language set
- RealFace™ avatar on high definition screen customizable for the owner – friendly and familiar
- Ability to understand data requests and perform information searches
- Simple tasks like remote television controls
- Touch screen interface
- Fully encrypted communications
- Self charging (with inductive pad)
Additional “nice to have” features include:
- One or two arms and hands for grasping and carrying objects
- Artificial Intelligence (AI) that provides for reasonable ability to “chat” with owner on diverse and unplanned topics
- Built in and learnable Visual Recognition Libraries (VRL’s: e.g. identifying chair, couch, door, pets, etc.)
- Emergency care taker monitoring and communicating – multiple levels of help (technical support, family, physician, 911, etc.)
- Home controls – heat, security, lights, etc.
- Training for simple physical tasks with “arm and hand” (open door, pick up newspaper, etc.)
- Search and communicate breaking news
- Live television / movies on screen
- Tracking of conversations with “key word ranking” to learn owner’s likes and to be more conversational
- Tracking of phone calls and other communications (you haven’t called Andrew for ten days)
- Built in games (using standard apps, plus dancing, other physical activities)
- Appointment schedule reminders, etc.
- RealFace™ to include eye and “head” (monitor) tracking
- Wireless Printing
To be completed . . .