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Name: Robert Oschler
Member since: 2004-02-13 03:49:41
Last Login: 2010-05-23 05:10:36

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I am a hobbyist roboticist and AI enthusiast. I once built a 6 jointed robot hand, using the Robix RCS toolkit, to look for the brightest source of light in a room. It held a light receptor in its gripper hand. It's movements were controlled by genetic algorithms. Each chromosome in the population contained 6 genes; one gene per motor position angle. The fitness test was the strength of the light coming in from the photo receptor. I never entered it in any competitions, but I had a great time building and testing it. A funny anecdote about the hand. I tested it in a dark room and at one point, the two best solutions for the robot ended up being a light I turned on in the room, and my forehead (reflected light)! It eventually settled on the light. I'm also an avid follower, and sometimes user, of the primary AI software groups; neural nets, fuzzy logic, machine vision, speech recognition and synthesis, etc. Some more detail on the robotic hand. I built the hand in the middle 1980's. I used two computer systems to drive it; a Windows 3.1 system and a pure DOS machine. The DOS machine ran the Robix driver programs which communicated with the robot hand joint motors over an RS-232 port. I had to use two machines because the Robix drivers needed real time access to the robot hand motors. This meant you could only run low level programs that used it's robot programming language and not Window 3.1, on the same machine. The genetic algorithm code was much easier to write and test under Windows 3.1. The Windows 3.1 machine communicated to the DOS machine over a custom written RS- 232 comm bridge module. My latest project is creating an Android Forum directory since I'm getting into Android phone development. I hope to use an Android phone as my first remote device for interacting with my Rovio mobile spy robot with. Later I'd like to get something working on the iPhone too, but to do iPhone development you have to learn Objective-C and Cocoa, which I don't know (yet). Since I already have experience with Java and Eclipse, the tools used when developing Android applications, I'll do my first mobile computing development on that platform.

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Here's a comment of mine on the current state of the robot industry and how the next great revolution in consumer technology is being held back by the current economy.

Currently nobody wants to create a toy that costs more than about $70 USD now and far better if it's around $30 to $40 (forget the $200 to $400 toy robots of the previous years). Unemployment is still rising and the credit card companies have jacked up rates on good and bad customers alike while closing many accounts just to shore up their debt ratios; two huge market forces which directly and significantly reduce both the discretionary income (cash) and layaway income(credit) a consumer has to buy goods. This leads to a vicious cycle because the vendors whose goods they would buy panic, cut their product lines (like robots this year), and lay off employees (who are after all consumers themselves and now have no salary to buy goods with).

It's so bad that in Japan, despite the fact it has one of the fastest aging populations in the world and desperately needs assisted robotics, those companies bringing those innovations to market can't get people to buy their goods (which admittedly are expensive but would have sold anyways in better times).

On the utility side of consumer robotics you might as well just call that market the Roomba market since there really isn't anything else that dominates. There is the promise of the telepresence and home surveillance market, but iRobot dropped iConnectR like a bad habit, Meccanno released Spykee but never followed up with their announced SDK, leaving WowWee to fight the good fight on with Rovio. At least they are soldiering on by continually upgrading Rovio's firmware and helping customers fix their units when it's a parts failure. The home teleprescence market should be moving ahead a lot faster and stronger than it is. It's up to WowWee to capitalize on it before a new player eats their lunch.

I'm looking forward to 2010. How about you?

At E3 Peter Molyneux demonstrated Milo, a game that features a rendered ten year old boy that you converse with. Although Milo doesn't have true natural language processing but instead mostly extensive keyword recognition capability, "he" does have the ability to detect emotion in your voice. This could have interesting applications to robotics.

A quick note to those looking at WowWee's products shown at the CES 2009 show. The Spyball, the rolling robot that can morph between a ball and a spycam, does not have audio. This is not be mentioned by the press. Rovio, it's big brother release in 2008, does have two way audio and also is capable of driving itself.

I'll be hosting another online Pleo party with the help of Yahoo Live this Thursday, March 6 2008. If anyone wants to chat while watching my 3 Pleos raise a ruckus in real time (with audio too), just visit my Yahoo Live Robots channel at 9 PM/EST on that date. To watch you just need a Flash enabled browser. To chat you will need a Yahoo ID (they're free).

CES 2008 brought quite a few new robots from WowWee. One exciting entry was the FlyTech Bladestar flying machine, a spinning propeller with the unique twist of having sensors that allow it fly on autopilot. The most interesting in my opinion is the Rovio spy robot that allows you to monitor your home remotely and easily create patrol routes to go to predetermined spots in your home, using its point and click navigation software.

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