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.
This was definitely a surprise, especially given the fact that Google was willing to pay a 63% premium over last Friday's market price for Motorola Mobility Holdings. Of course, no one has any doubts that Google is totally committed to Android and fully intends to make it the defacto standard, ubiquitously connected, operating system for cell phones, mobile computing, robotics, and the cloud.
At the same time, I have to wonder what the primary motivation for the extremely high evaluation was. It can't be based on Motorola Mobility's existing product lines since customers for mobile products tend to be fickle and change phones and makers almost as if they were seasonal fashion items instead of technology gadgets.
Perhaps Google is buying the talent, though that's a risky move. Highly talented developers and managers often jump ship when a major change in management or ownership happens. The most likely factor, in my opinion, is the patent base and position controlled by Motorola Mobility.
"Google said that access to Motorola, which makes phones that run on Google's Android mobile operating system, will "enable Google to supercharge the Android ecosystem and will enhance competition in mobile computing.""
No matter what their reasoning, the move has to be great news for the robotics community. You can be sure we'll see lots Android enhancements and features coming down the road that will spur robot connectivity to all types of devices and to the cloud.
Michael Overstreet, one of our regular readers, RoboGames champion, and hacker extraordinare, alerted us that AutoDesk is currently offering the 123D Sculpt iPad app for FREE. It's likely to be a limited time promotional offer, though we can't be sure. Even if they do eventually charge for it, the feature set looks very impressive.
- Multi-Touch tools let you sculpt and experiment with the details of your creation, just like real clay
- Pull – add bumps and create raised areas to exaggerate details like noses, claws, and fins
- Smooth – soften out rough areas or blend details into one another
- Push – create grooves and valleys by pushing into the shape
- Pinch – create hard edges and ridges to add sharp details
- Grab – grab hold of the shape and stretch it out
- Flatten – make curvy or lumpy surfaces flat
- Bulge – create large or small bulging effects
- Personalize and detail your sculpture using built-in brushes and textures, or use your own images to create exactly the look you want
- Paint – use a bold color palette to add shades, tints, and hues
- Image rub – use your finger to rub areas of a photo directly onto your creation to add realistic details
- Import your own images from your Photo Library or take photos using your iPad 2 camera to use as custom textures
- Create and Share your creations as images or movies on Flickr, Facebook, Dropbox or YouTube
- Email your images directly from the app or save to your Photo Library
- Save transparent PNG images for incorporating into other digital art compositions, or for further processing in apps like SketchBook Pro
- Create 720p HD QuickTime turntables of your sculptures for sharing on YouTube or for import into iMovie projects.
I just downloaded the app and will be exploring it later in the day.
Security Camera Warehouse, located in North Carolina, contacted us about their "Securing the Future" program, designed to encourage and support robotics teams as well as physics labs and science programs by providing free video cameras.
According to the program details:
"You have to be a University or High School to have guaranteed acceptance to receive the free cameras*. Club level robotics teams, optics labs, physics labs, and other programs can also apply but will be approved on a case by case basis. Club level teams need to be primarily educational in nature and have an emphasis on youth and young adults."
The program lists quite a few qualifying cameras and many of them appear to be easily adaptable to suit the needs of a robot surveillance project or remote telepresence application. Understandably, there are several restrictions shown on the website, including the requirement that receipients are limited to the US. Nevertheless, we think it's a great program and a great way for the company to support the robotics community. We wish other companies would follow their lead.
Aldebaran Robotics, the creators of the well known NAO humanoid robot, obviously have a strong commitment to advancing the state of the art in robotics technology and applications. During the RoboCup 2011 competition in Instanbul they unveiled the 4th generation NAO loaded with new enhancements, improved performance, and features requested and suggested by their rapidly growing user base in leading educational, academic, and research facilities from all over the world.
While the external appearance of NAO V4 may not have changed in obvious ways (don't worry, NAO still has the cute, lovable, boyish character that's made him so popular), the changes under the hood are really impressive and will make it much easier and attractive to users developing robotic applications as well as researchers.
We've been a strong believer in the future of 3D printing for over 20 years. That may seem like an odd statement to make since the technology has only recently started to catch on and capture public attention. But back in the late 1980's, while working for the Unigraphics CAD/CAM subsidiary of McDonnell Douglas, we had the opportunity to use some of the early 3D printers using UV curable resins.
The ground breaking devices were pretty amazing at the time. No one, including ourselves, had imagined that it was possible to quickly design a prototype then send it to a 3D printer and have it produce a model you could actually feel in your hands.
While the technology was almost breath-taking, the prices were also. The early machines we worked with cost more than the car we drove. It's taken a couple of decades for the prices to fall to the point that the technology is within the reach of small companies, groups, and even some individuals.
Now it's attracted so much attention that articles touting the merits and potential of low cost 3D printers are popping up in unexpected places, like CNNMoney:
"Imagine being able to print your own shoes or keys. Some top engineers are betting that home fabrication machines could soon be as common in the household as toaster ovens."
It's clear that someone sees an opportunity to make a profit. The big question, at least in our opinion, is whether or not there are enough individuals out there that want, or need, to express their creativity and will need a low cost 3D printer to realize their ambitions. We hope so, but aren't convinced, at least not yet.