As it gradually matures, something funny is happening in the robotic world: Robots are being accepted. True, people are not yet ready to see a drone knock on the front door or a humanoid walk down the street. But, as Thomas Claburn points out at InformationWeek, consumers and people in the workforce are gradually becoming acclimated to robots:
Some 14 million households worldwide have bought a Roomba robot vacuum cleaner. At least five hotels in Silicon Valley have been testing Savioke's Relay robot to delivery small items to guests. Starship, a robotics startup, plans to begin testing a delivery robot in the UK and the U.S. shortly. Self-driving cars from Google and other companies are also being tested in small numbers on public roads.
The use cases and level of oddness vary, but the rollout of robotics continues. Indeed, the new entrants seem almost to be forming a robotic traffic jam.
BostInno offers an interesting look at the different approaches to robotics taken by Google and Amazon. Google has taken a high-profile orientation that has created a tremendous amount of buzz. Amazon is working on a more subtle approach that, according to the story, has had more impact than what it calls “Google’s ‘moonshots.’”
The Amazon approach, the story suggests, may be more immediately productive. It seems that Boston is a hotspot:
And perhaps the most important moves made by each company so far have been centered here in Massachusetts. Google acquired Waltham’s Boston Dynamics—the maker of BigDog, Atlas and other walking robots—in late 2013, probably the most high-profile in a string of robotics acquisitions by Google. Amazon acquired warehouse robotics maker Kiva Systems of North Reading for $775 million the year before.
Not all the action is on the east coast, however. The IEEE Spectrum took a look at some recent robot startups in San Francisco:
- Dispatch Robotics: Its Carry robot travels in bike lanes and sidewalks for local deliveries. The size of the cart, the story says, is optimized to be easily seen but not be intimidating. Multiple deliveries can be made by locking objects in separate compartments that can be opened with a unique access code.
- UpDroid: This is a customizable robot for tinkerers. Hardware can be changed by snapping in different sensor modules. It has an open source operating system and a browser-based interface and costs less than $1,000.
- Nua: The goal is to make everyday objects – starting with luggage, according to the story – “move and communicate.” Nua has introduced a suitcase “that can follow its owner, navigating around objects and other pedestrians as necessary.”
- Simbe: Tally roams store aisles to check on inventory. It will replace humans with handheld scanners.
Every day, we are seeing more evidence that robots – in their many forms – are an increasing part of our personal and professional lives.
Carl Weinschenk covers telecom for IT Business Edge. He writes about wireless technology, disaster recovery/business continuity, cellular services, the Internet of Things, machine-to-machine communications and other emerging technologies and platforms. He also covers net neutrality and related regulatory issues. Weinschenk has written about the phone companies, cable operators and related companies for decades and is senior editor of Broadband Technology Report. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and via twitter at @DailyMusicBrk.