Saturday, October 1, 2011

Robotic Gift Suggestions for the 2011 Holiday Season

This holiday season, people are looking to get their money's worth from gift giving. Gifts need to be either truly phenomenal, practical or inexpensive. In the phenomenal category, what's more exciting than getting a robot as a holiday gift? The Robot Report, a site which tracks the business of robotics, has prepared this list of 2011 Robotic Holiday Gift Suggestions to please almost every family member:
  • For Grandparents and teenagers: Parrot AR.Drone QuadriCopter - $299
  • For Mom: iRobot's Scooba bathroom floor cleaning robot - $299
  • For Dad: Adaptive cruise control robot option for new cars - $599 - $2,495
  • For science-interested kids 10+: LEGO Mindstorms NXT kit - $273
  • For robotic gadget geeks 16+: Willow Garage's TurtleBot starter mobile robot - $1,499 -- OR -- Bilibot starter mobile robot with arm and gripper - $1,200.
  • For girls younger than 10: Penbo the affectionate waddling penguin - $45 -- OR-- Fijit the squishy dancing friend - $42
  • For the philanthropic: MyKeepon - $49 (part of the proceeds go to support autism research) -- OR -- donate a $280,000 PR2 to your alma mater's robotics lab
  • For readers of all ages: Selected books about robots and robotics - $10-$221
See below for product descriptions, prices and where to buy.

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A small robot that reacts to touch and music.

MyKeepon Robot Toy
Reacts to touch, sounds and music
  • Originally developed to study nonverbal interaction and social development with autistic children, its $30,000 price tag kept it away from most. 
  • Now reconfigured to be a toy, a portion of the revenue will be used to enable researchers and practitioners to use the $30,000 Keepon version of the robot in autism therapy.
  • Available exclusively from Toys R Us in the U.S. for $49.
A squishy robot that can dance and tell jokes.

Fijit by Mattel
Voice recognition, beat detection, 100 built-in phrases and jokes
  • Similar to MyKeepon but less altruistic, Fijit from Mattel is an interactive, pokable plaything for young girls.
  • Cute video of Fijit telling jokes and interacting with iPad.
  • $49 plus the cost of the app available at Amazon.
A sphere with inside lights that can be controlled with smartphone apps.

Sphero from Orbotix
iOS and Android game apps control ball
  • Coming to market in time for the holiday season, Sphero is a robotic ball controlled by your smartphone (iOS and Android).
  • Cute video of Spero ball and kitten interacting.
  • $129 plus the cost of the app from Sphero.
A penguin that waddles and sings with her baby.

Penbo and her Bebe
Lovable robotic toy from Bossa Nova Robotics
  • Specially designed for pre-teen girls, Penbo is affection to her owner and her baby.
  • She responds to touch and sound and has a pouch. Can operate autonomously or with remote control
  • $45 at Amazon.
Quadricoptor for in/outdoor use controled from your smartphone or tablet.

Parrot's AR.Drone Quadricopter
Rated #1 Consumer Electronics Product of 2010 and still going strong
  • Two cameras, front-facing and bottom-facing, stream live video to the screen of your tablet or smartphone for capture.
  • Augmented Reality (AR) apps enable dog fights and video games.
  • $299 at Amazon plus the cost of the apps.

Adaptive Cruise Control:
Automatically maintains a safe distance between your vehicle and the car ahead.

Adaptive Cruise Control
Available as an option from most car companies
  • With embedded robotic systems, cars keep getting smarter and safer all the time. Adaptive cruise control is a “smart” system that actively maintains a preset distance between vehicles rather than a preset speed. A laser or radar range finder sensor in the front of the vehicle measures the distance to the vehicle ahead, and the system automatically maintains a safe distance as traffic speeds up and slows down.
  • Available in higher-end versions from most car companies at prices ranging from $495 to $2,500.
  • Say or write on your card: "Hey Dad. If you are going to buy a new car, I'll pay for the adaptive cruise control option."
  • Lane awarenessnight vision pedestrian detection, and car-to-car danger warning systems are in the wings.

Willow Garage PR2:
Life-sized robot able to navigate in human environments and grasp and manipulate objects.

Willow Garage's Pool-playing PR2 Personal Robot
For millionaires and rich alumni to gift to their alma maters
  • Open-source library of functions includes folding laundry, fetching beer, playing pool, etc.
  • Watch laundry-folding video here.
  • Ideal gift from alumni to robotics lab at alma mater.
  • $280,000 for two-armed personal robot; $200,000 for single-armed PR2. Both with integrated Kinect device.
A floor washing robot for bathrooms, kitchens and other non-carpeted floors.

iRobot's Scooba 230 Robot
Floor washing robot for bathrooms and other floors

  • Removes up to 98% of common household bacteria from hardwood, tile and linoleum floors.
  • Informative video of iRobot's Scooba 230 robot.
  • Cleans bathroom floors better than competing robotic products.
  • $299 from Amazon plus $13 for cleaning fluid.
LEGO Mindstorms NXT Kit:
Buildable, programmable robot kit with sensors, servo motors and a microprocessor.

LEGO Mindstorms NXT Robot Kit
Buildable, programmable full-featured functional robot learning/teaching experience

  • LEGO kit includes 612 pieces, 4 sensors, 3 servo motors, and 32-bit microprocessor with Bluetooth and USB links to PC and Mac software with drag and drop programming.
  • Instructions for 4 different robot configurations.
  • $273 from Amazon.
Willow Garage TurtleBot:
Programmable mobile robot kit with Kinect sensor, iRobot Create mobile base and a microprocessor.

Willow Garage's mobile starter TurtleBot
With (A) mobile base, (B) 3D sensor, (C) PC and (D) TurtleBot hardware
  • TurtleBot uses off-the-shelf, low-cost hardware components that includes Willow Garage's open-source SDK based on ROS (Robotic Operating System), an iRobot Create mobile platform, Microsoft's XBox Kinect sensor, an Asus netbook PC and gyro. 
  • The TurtleBot SDK integrates all the software you need to get it running and comes with advanced capabilities like mapping and navigation.
  • $1,499 assembled; $1,399 in kit form. (Can be purchased without netbook and/or iRobot mobile platform if you already have either of them.)
Bilibot Project's Bilibot:A robot starter robot at an affordable price.

Bilibot Project mobile starter Bilibot
Comes with an arm and gripper, mobile platform, netbook, ROS software and a Kinect device
  • Started at MIT through exploring uses of Microsoft Xbox's new Kinect sensor, the Bilibot Project is producing this sophisticated robotics platform at an affordable price. The project has assembled the various components and integrated all the necessary software with ROS.
  • Designed primarily for the education and hobbyist communities, the Bilibot is a robotics platform for exploring and creating.
  • $1,200.
Book Selections:

  • Best sellers, thought provoking, scary, insightful, detailed - this hand-picked selection of books about robots will provide hours of interesting reading and valuable additions to robot fans libraries.
  • Available from Amazon - $10 to $221