CONNECT:
facebook_icon twitter_icon instagram_icon googleplus_icon youtube_icon rss_icon

Investigation: Robots

 

The recent Star Wars Celebration had plenty of intriguing factoids.  So that desert planet featured in Star Wars Episode 7: The Force Awakens is not Tatooine, after all. It’s Jakku.  Further, we learned that the soccer ball like droid, BB-8, is not a CG character.  Like R2D2, BB-8 is a real remote controlled robot.

 

Recently, we investigated what it would take for robots to develop into our robot companions seen in such films as Star Wars.  The fact that BB-8 is a practical prop indicates to me, that we are all closer to one day having a droid.

 

It turns out BB-8 was created by a company called Sphero.  The startup, headed by CEO Paul Berberian, was selected for Disney’s accelerator program last year, along with nine other companies. According to Disney’s website, the three-month-long program picks tech startups who want to “make an impact on the world of media and entertainment,” giving them upwards of $120,000 in investment capital. It also matches each startup with a mentor from within Disney’s executive ranks. In this case, Sphero’s mentor was Bob Iger. When Mr. Iger saw Sphero’s technology in action, he realized the potential application for BB-8 and connected the startup with the masterminds of the Star Wars characters.

 

BB-8 however is no mere remote controlled robot.  This droid takes their app controlled robot ball to the next level.   BB-8 moves so quickly, that people were convinced it had to be a CG character till it made it’s in person appearance.  I will admit when I first saw BB-8 in the trailer I thought it was a bit goofy but after seeing it interact on stage, I can see the personality the puppeteer was able to bring out of the brief performance.  BB-8 is truly a worthy addition to the droids of Star Wars, and since the company that made him is also in the business of making robot toys, it doesn’t take the force to see that one day soon we will all have a BB-8 droid of our very own.

 

Boston Dynamics is at it again.  Their latest robot, named Spot is an improvement over its predecessor.  Unlike Wild Cat, Spot is much quieter.  It is fascinating to watch Spot navigate both indoors and out.  The original K9 and R2D2 remote controlled props were never capable of handling such issues with so much ease.  In fact, Spot is able to walk up stairs better than I can.

 

At the heart of our recent "Our Companion the Robot" investigation is the quest for the artificial intelligence.  From HAL 9000 and KITT to Iron Man's JARVIS science fiction is teeming with AIs.  So how soon before you will have your own constant companion?  Sooner than you think.

The creators of CUBIC were inspired by JARVIS to create an AI that unlike Siri, has the ability to integrate with your home giving you voice command over your environment.  Thanks to some cloud computing and an app, Cubic can follow you wherever your adventure takes you.

 Cubic was recently funded by an Indiegogo campaign so expect to see Cubic soon.

 

 

  

Amazon has just announced the development of a new robot assisted delivery service that will get you your purchases in 30 minutes. Check out the video below to see a demonstration of this potential service.

The “octocopters” aren’t ready to take flight yet. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said in an interview on 60 Minutes.  The drones would be ready to take flight in four to five years. But an Amazon spokesperson pointed to an updated post on the company’s website promising aerial deliveries as soon as federal rules change. Those FAA rules could come as soon as 2015. The type of flights Bezos proposed are currently not allowed. Unlike some other drones currently used, these would be autonomous — they would fly without a pilot.

In episode 9 (S2E3) we concluded our first investigation into robots with an interview with Dr. Stephen Granade.  Dr, Granade is an expert on robotic helicopters,  Listen to the episode to see what he thinks is the future for this type of robot.