24 Nov 2003 Timster   » (Master)

Below for those who are interested is VIA explanation of the emerging yet interim PC-Bots market... sorry its a little long... but very interesting (trust me :)

The PC Grows, Changes, Converges

The role of the PC in our daily lives is continuing to evolve as the industry leverages the power, flexibility, and open standards of the x86 architecture to transform it from a simple productivity tool to a multi-function device that includes advanced communications and digital entertainment features. New applications such as email, instant messaging, VOIP, music, movies, and games are not only significantly enhancing the capabilities of PCs, but are also changing the way that we use these machines.

This convergence of the PC with Consumer Electronics and Communications has been underway for several years, and is now finally reaching a state of maturity in terms of product features and designs as well as consumer adoption. The Consumer Electronics industry has brought new levels of style, ease of use, and high quality multimedia features to the PC, while the performance, versatility, and open standards of the PC industry have enabled the emergence of a new generation of digitally intelligent Consumer Electronics devices. As a result, DVD players are becoming DVRs, stereos are becoming digital jukeboxes, and telephones are becoming videoconferencing devices.

Beyond PC and CE As the quality, convenience, and functionality of PCs and digitally intelligent devices further improves, people are already beginning to wonder what the next wave of advanced technological innovation will be. How will it be possible to further leverage the digital intelligence enabled by the x86 platform and create even smarter devices that go beyond the current feature-set and simply "do more" for the user?

Out of the Novel, Beyond the Textbook, into the Manual Once strictly the fancy of science fiction visionaries and committed academics, robots have for a long time captured people's imagination and represented the ultimate dream of many technologists. It's not difficult to envisage how robots with the innate ability to mimic our own human intelligence, senses, and physical capabilities would simplify our lives, by for example doing our household chores, guarding our homes, helping us with our jobs, and fighting our wars.

Today, such a vision is no longer a pipedream. In labs and research institutes across the world, fueled by military funding, space exploration, and healthcare needs, robot concept devices and prototypes of these visions of our future reality are finally starting to emerge and begin the inevitable march towards practical and then commercial development.

Robotics for Everyone But beyond the research being conducted by scientists, professors, and students, how does robotics fit into the lives of people today?

In fact, toy pets and automatic vacuum cleaners have already begun to appear on the market, ushering in this new robot era. Simultaneously, and perhaps unwittingly, a growing number of PC users have also begun traveling down the road to a robotics lifestyle by creating their own intelligent robotics systems. These new machines are helping to create a new interim category that bridges the gap between the latest PCs and outright robots, and for this reason we have called them PC-Bots.

Adding a web camera to your PC so that it can act as a surveillance device may not feel like you are building a robot, but it is definitely a step in that direction because you are essentially extending the utility of your PC by adding a new human-like sense to it. In other words, by integrating the ability to see and store image or video data in your system, you have in essence created a PC-Bot.

In fact, many of the most highly touted new features and products for the digital home, including video motion detection and thermometers for fire detection or climate control, all rely on the integration of human-like senses into the PC and sensors connected to it over a network.

New software technology is also playing a key role in ushering in the emerging of the PC-Bot market. Software that intelligently handles your email, filtering your spam and removing the physical need to manage your communications, is in effect providing PC-Bot functionality. Speech recognition software that negates the need to type or click commands to make your "listening" PC software applications function is also providing PC-Bot functionality to some users.

Inspiring the Enthusiasts "Modders" and "Overclockers" or those who customize and soup up their own PC components and cases to suit their tastes have created a large community of peers who share information and tips on how to turn an average PC into their own visions of cool slick machines. Primarily dedicated to their own aesthetic sense and increasing the PC performance, they show that a sizeable number of people are interested in doing a lot more with their computers than PC manufacturers suggest on their product brochures.

This community is already beginning to move beyond making PCs cooler by looks and performance only by adding "utility" to the aesthetic and speed based yardsticks by which they measure the quality and coolness of their "Mods". With their advanced technical expertise and creativity, the modding and overclocking communities are sure to play an important role in driving grassroots innovation in PC-Bot technology.

The Robotics Community While the PC-Bots market might make sense from the PC community perspective, what about the traditional robotics community? The robotics community includes commercial groups, academia, and robot enthusiasts of all ages.

Children now have the opportunity today to come in contact with robotics technologies throughout their education as more and more schools and colleges recognize robots as a fascinating tool by which students can learn about science, mechanics, electronics, computer programming, and even nature.

Robot competitions including soccer, sumo wrestling and other robot on robot battles are more popular than ever, with the mainstream media picking them up for TV shows and magazine coverage. While not commercially galvanized in the way the PC is, robotic clubs, societies, school groups etc provide a large enough market to attract and provide major companies with revenue opportunities in areas such as toys, kits, learning tools, electronic pets, and automation applications such vacuum cleaning.

Sophisticated software that has trickled down through research projects and academia is now available affordably to more mainstream audience. Complex robotic functions such as vision navigation systems and autonomous movement can be easily loaded to popular operating system environments. Making a robot that can leverage the power of the x86 platform is getting easier and more affordable. The power of the x86 platform is also allowing developers to make robots with increasingly sophisticated abilities such as navigation and collaboration between machines. For different reasons, but with the same result, the robotics community is coming to the PC platform. The enthusiast will be making PC-Bots for their own enjoyment and commercial businesses will ultimately build them for mainstream market.

VIA and PC-Bots With a complete range of low power x86 processors, chipsets, networking components, graphics, audio, and telecommunications products, VIA has developed the world's most comprehensive portfolio of PC silicon platform solutions available from a single company. As a global leader in creating small form factor, low power x86 standard mainboards with the VIA EPIA Mini-ITX Mainboard Series and the forthcoming VIA Nano-ITX, VIA is at the forefront of developing affordable and highly versatile platforms ideally suited to PC-Bot design applications.

Blending the best of what the PC world has to offer with core design values such as low power draw, distributed performance, and numerous connectivity options in a size that permits maximum design flexibility, the strengths of the VIA Mini-ITX and Nano-ITX platforms are crucial to typical robotics project needs and have delivered proven performance, reliability, and compatibility in the highly demanding PC market, whereas specialty boards built for robotics markets have not.

By continuing to develop highly-integrated low power x86 platforms and further strengthening its ties with the development community, VIA is committed to driving the emergence of the PC-Bots market and enabling exciting new levels of innovation in digitally intelligent devices.

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