Sunday, November 24, 2013

8 Robotic Gifts for the Holidays

by Frank Tobe, Editor and Publisher, The Robot Report

Click on picture or header for further details.

Romo App-Controlled Pet for iOS Devices

Romo by Romotive, includes face detection, telepresence/remote control and training, at Brookstone, $149.99

WowWee RoboMe Robot Kit for iPhone

RoboMe by WowWee has face detection, voice recognition and speech synthesis,  at Amazon, $129.99

Sphero App-controlled Wireless Robotic Ball

Sphero by Orbotix, a robotic ball you control from a smartphone or tablet, at Brookstone, $129.99.

iRobot Roomba 880, Vacuum Cleaning Robot

Roomba 880 by iRobot, new cleaning system and sensors for improved cleaning, at iRobot, $699.99.

Modular Robotics' Cubelets Kit

Cubelets by Modular Robotics, a different cube for different sensors and functions, at Amazon, $159.95.  

Leap Motion Gesture Motion Controller for PC or MAC

Leap Motion Gesture Controller by Leap Motion, enables one to interact with your computer with your hands and fingers, at Leap Motion, $79.99.

LEGO Minstorms EV3 Robot Construction System

Mindstorms EV3 by LEGO, processor, instructions, sensors, servo motors and ports to build different robots, at Amazon, $349.95.

Hexbug Spider by Innovation First Labs

Innovation First Labs' Hexbug Spider, a controllable creature with a remote controller which can control 2 Spiders, at Amazon, $23.61.

And 2 that won't be available until early next year: Play-i and ATOMagic

ATOMagic Set by myATOMS isn't available through the major outlets just yet but can be purchased on their website; Play-i's Bo and Yana won't be delivering until mid-Summer 2014. Check their websites for details.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Singular Impressions from IROS 2013 in Tokyo

Two images remain in my mind from IROS 2013 last week in Tokyo. The respect for Professor Emeritus Mori and his charting of the uncanny valley in relation to robotics, and the need for a Watson-type synthesis of all the robotics-related scientific papers produced every year.
Let me explain.

Uncanny Valley:

Almost all of the presentations at IROS were abstract and technical except for the discussion about Prof. Mori’s Uncanny Valley theory. First of all, he was there and described how he came to observe the uncanny valley under different situations and circumstances. Secondly, all of the presenters and audience were respectful of Prof. Mori’s work, his theory, and him as a person. Third, and most interesting to me, each of the other speakers in this special lecture session described how the uncanny valley theory was relevant in different settings and disciplines. In art, philosophy, psychology — in the works of David Hanson and Hiroshi Ishiguro (both of whom were there) — as well as in medicine, prosthetics and in robotics in general. To me it was a reminder that robotics crosses sciences and connects with humans in many different forms, and this tribute presentation at IROS brought the personal relationships and the breadth of their reach to the forefront, and away from the abstract, theoretical and mechanical side of IROS.
In this video by IEEE/Spectrum, filmed outside the door of the room where the session was held, one can clearly see the multi-science and psychological/philosophical aspects of the theory:

Papers, Posters, Presentations and the Real World:

Worse, 90% of scientists don't even know whether their research is "new" or not.
Ever since I learned of the IBM Watson Jeopardy project my mind has been fascinated with possibilities for practical applications. IBM is on that trail as well and is using Watson to help with medical diagnoses and legal research and briefing. My idea is to get the NSF and IEEE (and other organizations) to commission a Watson project to synthesize robotics and AI-related science papers into a meaningful resource for all to use. At present, there are so many papers published that a researcher cannot possibly read them all. Consequently we don’t even know what we already know. But with Watson, we could know — and we could redirect research activities truly into the unknown without reinventing things over and over.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Robotics Expo 2013, Moscow

Written and photographed by Mike McFarlane, RobotGuide
Edited by Frank Tobe, The Robot Report

The bleak autumn Moscow day didn’t seem to have dampened the enthusiasm of the crowds of people making the journey to the 2013 Moscow Robotics (and advanced technologies) Expo at the Sokolniki Conference Centre. 
Robots, kids, adults, business people, guest speakers, hobbyists, entrepreneurs, dancing robots and the media were in full attendance and full of interest and enthusiasm for all things robotic at the recent Robotics Expo 2013 in Moscow. Set in Sokolniki Park, the various conference halls are almost hidden in the woods. Find out more about the Sokolniki Conference centre at or the conference organisers SmileExpo at

The show was organized around a number of key themes: 
  • Home automation
  • Hospitality/guide/remote presence
  • Personal transport
  • Education/learning toys/hobbyist
  • 3D-printing
There were not many personal telepresence robots at the show! Given the vast size of Russia, and the difficulties of travel, I found this surprising in some ways although culturally business is done in Russia person to person. There was also little presence of drones at the show, which is not representative of the broad interest in drones by Russians for hobbies, photography/video and delivery/courier startups.

A number of the robots were made outside Russia and being shown by a Russian distributor, but many of the hospitality and education/toy robots were Russian designed and made.

The Expo was well attended, by all ages, but there seemed to be the strongest interest from 18-30-year olds.
Russians people love being photographed when they are doing activities and I would recommend if you want to have a real hit when you exhibit in Russia to integrate this into your promotion in some way.
All loved the dancing robots! This display was set to traditional Russian songs, cause Gangham Style is just so done!
For those tired of walking and talking there was a beanbag and film area to chill out and enjoy Star Wars robot battles.
There was plenty local media and bloggers present giving entrepreneurs a chance to get their message out.
Solving public issues using robots, robots for business, research of humanoid robots and investing in robotics were some of the well attended talks given at the conference part of the Expo.

Home automation:

iClebo intelligent cleaning robot - iRobot Roomba has a strong retail presence in Moscow and represents a good market for competitors like iClebo to enter. Find out more at
Windoro auto window cleaner - There seemed little interest for this product from visitors, unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to discuss the robot with the distributors. Find out more at

Robomow lawn mower - was generating strong interest. Whilst the majority of Muscovites have no garden, many have a dacha (country house) that have gardens and turning up there to find tidy lawns will be a strong selling point. Find out more at
The Bosch Indego robotic lawnmower. Despite having the largest stand at the show there was not a lot to see! More at
Nanosematics provides website customer support chatbots. Whilst they were demonstrating a home solution with their videos, their client list is heavily targeted at business. Find out more at

Hospitality/remote presence were showing a range of hospitality, guide and telepresence robots. The smaller dome shaped robots were using Android based tablets as a display on the mobile ‘arm’. The drinks hospitality and remote presence robots (shown here) were very active around the stand. Note, there is a small wheel at the back; they are not a self-balancing (Segway type) robot. Find out more at
Wicron were showing a Nintendo wii-mote controlled remote presence robot that appeared well developed and robust in operation. Find out more at They were also promoting MATE Mobile Application Technology Expo which will run in April 2014 in Moscow. More at

Personal transport

Segway Point provides Segway hires which appears quite popular in the Moscow parks in the summer. Find out more at
IPS have developed a single wheel gyroscope balanced personal transport which was one of the stars of the show for me allowing quick mobility around a city then easy stowage under a desk or in a home cupboard. Portable and highly stable even with only one foot on, the reps could easily navigate through the busy show. Find out more at

Education/learning toys/hobbyist

This sector probably had the most representation at the Robotics Expo. With the strong theoretical and technical education in Russia, I’m sure parents want to support this, and the kids also seemed engaged at what they saw.

Skygadget - Skygadget is a drone distributor. The only product they had on display was the Parrot AR Drone and they have a very small selection of other drone products for sale. Find out more at

Always popular, always versatile, capable of some very technical projects, fischertechnik did not disappoint with the range of projects on display. Note the use of a Siemens PLC for control of this more complex ‘automation’ project. They were also demonstrating Arduino integration in other projects. Find out more at

RobotBaza are a reseller of robotics and electronics education products. Their product range includes Lego Mindstorms, Arduino kits, fischertechnik and bioloid humanoid robots. Find out more at
Trik provides a complete robotics and automation education system. Reminiscent of Mecanno they had a range of robot projects on display from diggers to self-balancing Segway style robots and a well developed software development environment. I also noticed some Trik t-shirts and products at Open Innovations 2013. Find out more at!home-en/c12um
Examen Technolab - They produce their own plastic and metal construction sets including robotics kits and are also a reseller of education products including Bioloid. Find out more at

Hobby lab are a reseller of a wide range of electronics and education kits. Find out more at

I’m not sure if these guys were hobbyists or students but their robots showed a lot of ingenuity and passion.

3D printing

As expected there were a few 3D printing stands and always a good crowd of interested people at each wanting to find out more.

Printers 3D provide 3D printing services as well as selling printers and consumables. Find out more at

Printers 3D provide 3D printing services as well as selling printers and consumables. Find out more at