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The Dawning of the Office Robot

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Re: Travel gets old
Robotech   8/15/2011 2:49:46 PM
Ahh, but what if you could "rent" one of these for the various trade shows or other venues? I see this as a major potential market. And I can see many companies wanting one or two of these in their "stable" for guests to use, or to have access to a rental-bot company that could supply them as necessary. Include a cellular network connection, and you could go almost anywhere. (At least until you run into stairs, or a curb without a wheelchair-friendly access point.)

You could perhaps even call up the rental company, have one put into a cab to be dropped off anywhere, and then picked up later. There are many such possibilities.

This basic idea is nothing new, but this design is much more practical than most. I really like the thought put into the very functional design of the "head", not only with the sensors and display, but that hat-rim-like bumper and the general aesthetics. It looks like at least one of their design engineers is also an artist, with a good grasp of human psychology.

I'd like to offer a suggestion though. I'd want to be able to press an elevator button. Perhaps add an actuator that allows the vertical shaft to tilt from side to side, and either a raised bump on the front of the "hat-rim", or maybe even a "nose" on the face to push the buttons. Tied in with your camera and ranging sensor, the operator would just click on the button they want, and the robot would figure out how to move to press it.

TJ McDermott
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To whom or what are speaking?
TJ McDermott   8/15/2011 12:10:30 PM
It's got "eyes", and a screen to display the image  of the person controlling the robot.  To whom should we be speaking?  If it's the person controlling the robot, then even the hint of anthropomorphism (the friendly eyes) should be removed.  Consider the interaction when a human translator facilitates a conversation (whether foreign language, or sign language).  The proper way to converse is to talk TO the person, NOT to the translator, even though the translator is speaking the words you understand.

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buy my robot
missnoitall   8/15/2011 11:10:56 AM
I have this robot coming out soon that I need to sell thousands of and my price is only $1,999 (available for a limited time for only $19.99 a month).   Unlike other robots, businesses can easily afford to buy one of these for every employee.  While it isn't quite ready to fetch coffee or pretend to be you, it can sit by the break room and drink coffee (and pee on the floor later on).  It's so cute when it says 'your next payment is due in [xx] days!' 

Be serious people, what is the ROI when a company buys one of these?

Charles Murray
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Travel gets old
Charles Murray   8/15/2011 11:06:34 AM
I think these guys are onto something. Travel is getting very tiresome these days. With the advent of the new imaging systems at airports, we now have to remove our shoes, belts, phones, pens, eyeglasses, computers, bottles of liquid and even scraps of paper when we go through security. Planes are jammed; there's never an extra seat. Hotels and airfare are expensive. If engineers could find a way to alleviate some of that pain, I'd be all for it. My problem is that I would need to have avatar robots spread all over the country -- San Jose, Boston, Detroit -- and I'd never be able to afford that. I think this would work for people who have remote offices or manufacturing facilities that they frequently visit.  

Susan Fourtané
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Two birds with one stone
Susan Fourtané   8/15/2011 10:16:05 AM

It sounds to me that this robot was designed and prototyped before the times of the existing video conference systems. At first, I couldn't come up with any situation in which a robot could be more efficient that me attending a video conference meeting. We can also create an avatar that looks just like us in virtual environments like Second Life and attend vistual meetings. 

Then I though that the only way this robot could come useful would be if I have to attend two very important meetings at the same time. In that case, I would send my avatar robot to one and I would attend the other one in the real or vistual world. Closing two important deals at the same time? :)


Steve Heckman
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Re: Human Touch
Steve Heckman   8/15/2011 9:23:37 AM
I agree, I don't think we need a bunch of Shelbots running around our halls. Most of the goals would be accomplished by a good video conf system. Now, if we add an arm so it could get me some coffee... there might have something useful to this.

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Avatar majority
Battar   8/15/2011 9:23:12 AM
Won't take long before Dilbert, Alice, Wally and the PHB all send their avatars to the meeting room while they get some work done, and there will be no one outside to drink cofee with Asok. Defeats the purpose.

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Re: The cool robots are not human
prasadb1   8/12/2011 6:00:28 PM

I agree. Facial design of robots may matter for tasks that are humanly. However, there are those tasks (you cited few examples), which no human being wants to do such as handling hazardous materials or cleaning in nuclear facilities. There, I think flexibility of robots to maneuver different tasks or situations at hand would be more important than their look. Right?

Rob Spiegel
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The cool robots are not human
Rob Spiegel   8/12/2011 11:50:53 AM
There seems to be two tracks for robot development: Robots that can conduct extraordinary tasks in production (while not looking the least bit human), and robots that look slightly human and perform tasks (such as talking and walking) less efficiently than humans.

We're fascinated by the semi-human aspects of robotics, while the really fascinating robot development is conducted by very non-human-looking robots.

The auto industry is deploying an inspection robot with multiple "eyes" that examine the inside of a cab for welding accuracies and parts-in-place. The robot has five eyes, each with a different task. They can scan or "see" more accurately than human vision (besides retaining a much higher level of focus than humans). These robots don't look human, so they don't get the pats on the head. Yet these robots demonstrate real value of robotics -- doing tasks that exceed human ability.

Beth Stackpole
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Human Touch
Beth Stackpole   8/12/2011 11:34:39 AM
Very cool story, Chuck, but really--a robot as an avatar replacement in meetings and in place of a CEO to communicate to his or her employees. While I applaud the technology and definitely can see robots finding a real home in business, I just don't think even this cute ET-like guy (or gal) can replace a person in terms of the value of human-to-human communication in meetings or coffee breaks or any where else, for that matter. Social media and texting are bad enough in terms of serving as a substitute; throw robots into the mix and things really get scary!

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