Another "World's First" for a Robot?

Posted 13 Jun 2003 at 14:16 UTC by steve Share This

Taking a page out of the marketing plan of robot vacuum cleaner companies, Smart Robots, maker of the SR4 and SR5 robots, claims "Tuesday June 10, 2003 may well go down in history as the date when autonomous mobile robots first began exchanging email with each other over the Internet." While the SR4/5 robots do look like cool robots, their marketing folks may have gotten a little carried away. What about all the other robots that have been sending and receiving email for years? Like the Toshiba ApriAlpha, Evolution ER1, Sony SDR-4X, AIBO, and most Linux-based robots. Anyone have a guess at what robot was really the first to send and receive email?

Robot History Timeline, posted 13 Jun 2003 at 15:00 UTC by The Swirling Brain » (Master)

Wouldn't it be great to create a robotic history timeline?

Date Event

x First Robot Vacuum created

x+1 First Emailing Robot created

x+2 First Robot Vacuum created

x+3 First Emailing Robot created


Hmmm....what was that robot's name?, posted 13 Jun 2003 at 16:14 UTC by jeffkoenig » (Master)

I recall, probably around 1994-1996, a robot at a university that wandered a hallway. There was a web site that you could access to give the robot a task - you got to pick which office it went into, and the action that it would perform. One of the actions was to either tell a joke or tell a limerick (I've forgotten. I think it was a limerick, though).

When the action was completed, the robot sent you an e-mail that said that it had completed its task. I think I got my e-mail a day or two after I'd sent the request.

xavier, posted 18 Jun 2003 at 13:04 UTC by jiggersplat » (Journeyer)

the robot you are thinking of is xavier from carnegie mellon.


Robots exchanging, understanding and responding, posted 18 Jun 2003 at 13:25 UTC by Joe Bosworth » (Journeyer)

We certainly did not intend to mislead with the article. We have assumed that any number of robots have sent out open-text e-mail in the past. However, I do believe that this is the first occasion of robots actually exchanging e-mail (which is what our article says) and being able to do so in a way that the robots can parse the contents of the e-mail and act on that contents (using XML). If you find me to be incorrect in this, I will certainly acknowledge that misperception. We also used the word ``may'' and hope that we will, in fact, learn if anyone else is doing this right now --- or has, in the past. Who has really done it all first is not terribly important.

Our overall interest is to encourage others to investigate XML and web services as the very potent robot-communications medium we believe it is.

See robot to robot (http://www.smartrobots.com/robots_talking.jsp) and send a robot an e-mail (http://www.smartrobots.com/email_a_robot.jsp) on our site. We will continue to develop these techniques and make API's, an XML-reader and examples available on our site as we go along. We encourage your participation and efforts with us in the open robot network we are developing (see http://www.smartrobots.com/network.jsp).

Robot Communication Been Around A While, posted 19 Jun 2003 at 16:42 UTC by The Swirling Brain » (Master)

Althought robots have collaborated and communicated with each other for ages, it is nice that a robot can send and receive XML emails regardless if the sender is a human or a robot. The thing is, is that it still seems a little misleading is that:

  1. It's not the first time that robots have communicated with other robots? (this has gone on forever as shown by the link above)
  2. It's not the first time two devices have communicated by email or XML (this has happened for ages on the internet)
  3. It's not really communicating by human readable email (since you have to format the emails into an XML format)
  4. It may be that it's the first time two robots talk by XML email (but this is the most inefficient method for two robots to communicate with each other so if it hasn't been done it's because it's that most projects abandon it or choose rather to use RPC or remote object communication or some other faster or more efficient machine level form of communication across network protocols and only use human readable form for when they want to talk to humans).

It is handy that you can create an XML email and send it to a robot. It's also handy that a robot could create a similar XML email and send it back or even to another robot. It's sort of weird that anyone would try to make someone think this is a novel enough "first" (if even it is a first) for the world of robotics that we should all jump up and down, take note, and put this particular idea on some kind of pedestal.

It is cool, shrug, but not THAT cool. I'll agree with steve when saying the article seems to get a little carried away.

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