Robots

Wakamaru Housesitter Robots Go On Sale

Posted 30 Aug 2005 at 12:04 UTC by The Swirling Brain Share This

Mitsubishi said that starting September 16th, it would begin selling the Wakamaru robot to the public. Wakamaru is about 3 foot tall, can recognize 10,000 words (Japanese words?), can recognize up to 10 people's faces and talk to them, moves around on wheels, can work as a secretary, and if linked to a cell phone can monitor situations at home for you. If you feel like you could peacefully coexist with such a robot, Mitsubishi says it would like to sell about a 100 Wakamarus to you for about $14,300 USD each. As far as firsts go Mitsubishi said it would be the first time a robot with communication ability for home use has been sold. I'm not sure why housesitter robots are all the rage in Japan, but if you're not willing to pay 14 grand for a Wakamaru housesitter robot, a more affordable housesitter robot called the Roborior robot went on sale this past week for only $2600.


Personal Assistant, posted 30 Aug 2005 at 13:11 UTC by marcin » (Journeyer)

I can appreciate that robots like this, or even 914 bots, would be cool personal assistants in a way that PDAs haven't really achieved. I can see myself, making dinner. I say to Lucy (the robot) "give me a news brief" and 'she' would (via wireless link) get RSS feeds from smh.com.au, nytimes.com, bbc.co.uk (and of course robots.net), filter out the rubbish like sport (except Formula 1) and lotto, and then read out the headlines. I would then be able to drill down verbally into any item, and intermix that with request for 'her' to fetch this or that ingredient. Tell me about emails, and then play some internet radio.

Once it comes down in price by 95% and can climb and descend stairs, I'm there.

Cheers, Marcin

I'd like to have one too, posted 30 Aug 2005 at 13:25 UTC by The Swirling Brain » (Master)

I'd like to have one too, but my funds won't allow it for now.

I'm wondering how functional the arms and hands are? The arms probably move if Wakamarus will be performing in a robot opera. I'm also wondering how flexible the programming is to allow it to be customized. I'm not expecting it will be much of a "robot" but rather more of a rolling computer. But, for many things that would be very useful! I could see adding a vacuum on it so it could do something useful as it rolled around the house.

Another commercial robo flop, posted 31 Aug 2005 at 09:58 UTC by motters » (Master)

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. When I read stories like this one I just kind of give an exasperated sigh of frustration.

This is yet another over-enginered and hideously expensive "domestic" robot. With a price tag of $14300 this practically guarantees that noone will ever buy or use one, and domestic robots will remain merely the pipe dream of science fiction writers.

The next step for robotics is a move out of industrial environments and into homes and offices, but this will only occur once they become cheap enough to be a consumer commodity. At most a robot designed for the home should cost about the same as a high end PC. Manufacturers should design their products based around this sort of price level, or at least build prototypes which can be reduced to that cost when mass produced. They should employ me and I'll tell them how to do it.

All the components required to build sophisticated robotics products have come into place within recent years. So now we have very small embedded PCs, wireless networking, USB servo controllers, embedded operating systems, minature hard drives or flash disks and imaging devices such as webcams which are all becoming increasingly cheap and ubiquitous.

To make domestic robots as cheap as possible they should just contain some very minimal computing power sufficient for gathering sensor data and trasmitting it quickly over a wireless network to a desktop PC, and receiving motor commands in a similar fashion. If you make the robot merely a dumb terminal you can offload the complexity of the software control (the "brain") onto a desktop computer, and the robot's batteries are likely to last for longer because they don't need to support a lot of onboard computing. This also "future proofs" the machine to some extent, in that if new software becomes available, or if you want to add extra processing power, this does not require any modifications to be made to the robot itself. For extra brain power you could potentially have more than one desktop PC controlling a single robot, or even have it controlled by many PCs distributed on the internet.

but.., posted 31 Aug 2005 at 11:56 UTC by c6jones720 » (Master)

I agree with motters but of course that would limit the market to those who own PCs, having said that though I suppose those would be the primary consumers. It makes me wonder how successfull products like the Roomba and the Whitebox robots can be.

The first motor cars..., posted 31 Aug 2005 at 12:57 UTC by JamesBruton » (Master)

Ah... but how much did the first motor cars cost, and how many people had them? (and how fast/reliable/feature-rich were they?). There are a few other products out there that are domestic helper bots but it sounds like this will be limited to a production run of 100(?), so I guess it's for the 'privileged few'.

Personally though, I'd like to see a thing like this as an 'empty shell', either like a PC 914 bot with a body, head and arms, or as Motters says with a wireless interface - or even just a simple RS232 wired interface and space for whatever control method you choose with an published communication protocol / data command set.

I guess they're targeting the 'finished product' market for people who just want it to work, rather then developers/hobbyists but it might cut down on costs a little to make it more minimal. At the end of the day how many other commercial products are there that are actually on sale to the public which are humanoid(ish) but aren't aimed at the toy market...?

Maybe someone should start an open standards humanoid project made from easy to get hold of parts which can have software developed as a colaborative / open source effort. (Even if it doesn't have legs) I'm sure something could be made more cheaply with off-the-shelf computer/robot/car parts etc.

Early Adopters To Get Custody of Wakamaru, posted 31 Aug 2005 at 13:26 UTC by The Swirling Brain » (Master)

I still feel like there's got to be a real compelling reason to have a robot other than, "look I got one and you don't." I mean, after a few minutes of conversation with a robot, it gets old fast no matter how many words it knows, so that's not it. It checks your email? So. I just don't see it. Maybe that's why they painted it bright yellow?!

Wakamaru is basically just a rolling computer. If it's going to be a rolling computer, what I would want is a rolling computer that can stop in front of me and become my computer desk for a while. It would be cool if it could present a laptop to me and when I'm done, retract it and go off on its own doing some useful work like taking out the garbage or vacuuming the floor or getting me a drink from the fridge. I'd be more inclined to get a 914 bot because I would feel I'm not limited in what I could do with it and seems to have some future hardware upgrade addon path.

Usefulness factor, posted 31 Aug 2005 at 23:25 UTC by marcin » (Journeyer)

My view of robots is that they should be useful in an unobstructive sort of way. They should fit in to your life and help you out, just like having 14 kids did back when we were all farmers.

It seems, by all reports, that we are all busier than ever (my thinking is that we may be just that little bit more spoilt than ever, but nevertheless) so people need or want some additional hands - even if it's to stir the pasta while you go and sort out the latest problem between the kids... I personally don't really like TV too much - there's a time waster if ever I saw one (hey, maybe those people that don't have enough time...) so I would be quite happy to get a news snapshot while I'm doing something.

I'm not a proponent of abdicating all adult responsibilities to other people or robots (esp raising children), but if I can save some time in some things and spend some more time with the kiddies, so much the better.

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