Basic assumptions, whether explicitly defined or not, often determine the eventual success, or failure, of all research and design projects. It's all too easy for an engineer to make assumptions that don't bear out in the real world. It's also very common for corporate management to dedicate huge budgets to projects built on faulty logic.
After watching, and thinking about, some of the patient assistance robotic technology showcased yesterday by Toyota, I really have to wonder what their original design assumptions were. A good example is the Toyota Patient Transfer Assist Robot.
I've been anticipating the release of practical head mounted display for years since they have tremendous potential for robot and remote telepresence applications. So far all of the designs have either been obtrusive and block the wearer's vision somehow, or they have had limitations that have precluded commercialization.
Now Brother Industries has announced they will roll out their AiRScouter transparent LCD display this Fall for business/industrial applications and hope to follow up with a commercially available version in the near future.
’Head Mounted Display Set To Roll Out (Video)’ continues
Technology development today faces some serious limitations that constrains its application and successful deployment, especially in non-traditional sectors. The two biggest limitations, at least from my perspective, are battery capacity/life and sensors. While there has certainly been a lot of progress in both areas over the past two decades, the core technology and design approach hasn't really changed very much.
In order to achieve radical improvements in the way we put technology to practical use some significant breakthroughs in both areas will be critical. Along those lines, one of the most interesting and surprising "thinking out of the box" sensor developments I've run across recently is the FuwaFuwa sensor module developed as a part of the Igarashi Design Interface Project under the auspices of the Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST) ERATO.
"FuwaFuwa" in the Japanese language is a kind of onomatopoeic word that roughly translates as light/airy/fluffy, and that's exactly what the FuwaFuwa sensor module does.
Michael Overstreet has been a good and respected friend since the first time we hooked up several years ago at RoboGames in California. So, I hope he doesn't mind if I make some frank, and well deserved, comments.
When we first met Michael seemed like a typical robot geek, very talented with lots of expertise, but a bit shy and withdrawn. You really had to push him to get him to tell you what he thought. I'm sure he had lots of valuable and useful things to share, but they didn't flow easily.
Over the years, with experience, learning, and success, Michael has really blossomed and come out of his shell. He's become a key member of the Cowtown Computer Congress - Kansas City's leading hackerspace, a frequent exhibitor and participant in Maker Faire events all over the US, and a strong proponent of the DARwin-OP humanoid robot platform.
One lesson that was drummed into my thick skull early on was never to accept the first answer to any important question. I was taught that you absolutely must ask "Why?" at least three or four times before you even begin to start uncovering the truth. Never take anything at face value. Always look under the surface, and beyond the superficial, if finding the true answer is important to you. I was reminded of that lesson this morning as I read through the official PR surrounding Google's surprising move to swallow Motorola Mobility Holdings.
Here is what Larry Page, the Google CEO, had to say:
"In 2007, Motorola was a founding member of the Open Handset Alliance that worked to make Android the first truly open and comprehensive platform for mobile devices. I have loved my Motorola phones from the StarTAC era up to the current DROIDs."
True enough. No way to argue with that.
In 2008, Motorola bet big on Android as the sole operating system across all of its smartphone devices. It was a smart bet and we’re thrilled at the success they’ve achieved so far."
True again, though there were a lot of other companies that stepped up to the table and placed big bets on Android as well.
A couple days ago I blogged a photo of Data The Robot doing stand-up comedy routines at the Lincoln Center. Data's owner/operator/muse is non-other than Heather Knight, a.k.a. "Marilyn Monrobot". Heather modestly describes herself as a "Social Roboticist" but her talents go way beyond that humble title. She's pursuing her doctoral research at CMU in Pittsburgh, doing applications design with Aldebaran Robotics, creating interactive installations, while somehow finding the time to put on engaging and entertaining robot and technology gigs that artfully combine traditionally cold/sharp/hard technology with soft/feeling/emotional art and creativity.
Check out Data The Robot, and Heather, in the video below recorded live at the Gramercy Theatre in New York City earlier this summer.