It's SXSW time again already, so it should come as no surprise that companies involved in the interactive space are rolling out press releases and product announcements designed to leverage the excitement of the moment.
The most exciting, and interesting announcement that we've seen so far came from Makerbot on Friday. The company's CEO, and one of the founders, Bre Pettis stepped into the limelight to let the world know that they are developing a new 3-D scanner. Actual details are kind of sparse at the moment, because the company is still in the prototyping phase. No doubt will be extensive testing, learning, and redesign over the next few months as the product develops. There is currently no indication of the price or release timing, though the company did state that they will start accepting orders this fall.
The scanner consists of a turntable on which you mount objects you wish to scan. Lasers and cameras translate that object into a digital files. Bre said the scanner will be ideal for archiving, prototyping, replicating, and digitizing prototypes, models, parts, artifacts, artwork, jewelry, and other objects.
Assuming that the pricing is reasonable, and by that I mean in line with the pricing for the company's 3-D printers, then the new scanner will be a huge success. There are free solutions out there that usually involve taking a series of photos, then having the photos analysed to re-create the dimensions for the 3-D object. However the free software available online is either difficult to use, or requires significant attention to detail.
The new scanner, on the other hand seems to be much more straightforward and has some nice features that we help make it into the final product design. For example, the turntable, which we assume will be able to rotate the subject smoothly and repeatably. it appears that the company would like to expand its offerings to include products targeted at all the key steps in the design and manufacturing/printing process.
Related links: Makerbot Announces New Scanner
Issue #9 (of about 70) arrived today, and along with the set of parts for the DeAgostini Robi humanoid robot designed by Takahashi-san, there was another larger box including the original clock shaped like Robi's head.
There is no question that rapidly advancing robot and AI technology are enabling companies to bring back work previously done overseas, especially in China. At the same time, they are eliminating the need for human involvement in the manufacturing and assembly processes, no matter where the 'manufacturing' takes place.
This excellent "Are Robots Hurting Job Growth?" segment on 60 Minutes explains the accelerating trend along with the benefits and the challenges it's creating. In the end, it may pose more of a severe problem for blue collar workers in China, India, and Asia than it will for their counterparts in 1st World nations, though no one will be able to completely escape its impact.
If I had to make one critical observation about the 60 minutes segment it would be to say that the title, "Are robots hurting job growth?", is misleading. To understand what is really taking place, and the eventual impact on individuals, governments, and societies, we need to take a much deeper, and more focused, approach. Robots, or more specifically 'robotics', is only a tool or technology.
The real 'problem', if we consider it to be a problem, is our focus on ever increasing efficiency and profitability, apparently without regard or a second thought to the impact on the quality of human life in general.
Watch Robots Play Part in Treatment for People With Special Needs on PBS. See more from PBS NewsHour.
"Notre Dame psychology professors use a robot built in France by Aldebaran Robotics as a tool to encourage children with autism, who may struggle just to engage in simple conversation. According to the Autism Society, 1 percent of American children ages three to 17 have an autism spectrum disorder."
Related link: PBS NewsHour
The Robot Japan competitions get better and better each time. The 5th bi-annual event, held last Sunday in Tokyo, was the best competition yet from all aspects. The professionalism, showmanship, energy, and excitement was absolutely fantastic.
Here's my photo set of the afternoon. I'll be posting several videos of the action on the Robots Dreams YouTube channel (http://www.youtube.com/robotsdreams) also.
The ROBO-ONE organizing committee announced that the 6th ROBO-ONE Light competition will be held Saturday, February 23, 2013 at the Miraikan National Museum of Emerging Science in Tokyo.
The qualifying tests for the 22nd ROBO-ONE competition will be held the same day immediately following the ROBO-ONE Light event, with the full competition scheduled for Sunday, February 24th, 2013 at the same venue.
The events, which will be staged in the large 7th floor auditorium, are open to the public with free admission.