The EyesBot line of apps has some degree of autonomy and ability to influence and be influenced by its environment - for example, EyesBot Watcher detects motion, tracks motion with its "Eyes" and saves files related to that motion to Dropbox. The autonomy of the EyesBot line will become more pronounced with the release of EyesBot Driver, which uses an iPod as a robot controller. When preparing to create this line of products, my company did research into the current state of the art in autonomous systems and applied physical computing, and some of those findings are summarized in this post. The question that the research, and this post, attempted to answer is, "as the ability of intelligent systems to interact with people and their surroundings increases, what does that mean for businesses and consumers?"
The state of the art in physical computing
Transport and Maintenance
|Big Dog||Boston Dynamics||A light cargo carrying robot that uses gyroscope, LIDAR and stereo vision for sensing. Mainly aimed at the military market.|
|PatrolBot||ActivMedia Robotics||Component based robot, primarily for patrol or industrial use. Uses camera, visual or tactile sensors.|
|Robomow||Friendly Robotics||Autonomous mower that uses a wire embedded in the ground and a sensor for determining location.|
|Roomba||iRobot||Autonomous vacuum cleaner, uses infrared and contact sensors for guidance|
|Neato||Neato Robotics||Autonomous vacuum cleaner, uses laser based guidance system|
|Mint||Evolution Robotics||Autonomous pad based floor cleaner, uses remote infrared source for navigation. Least expensive of the group at $300|
There are many motion detecting security cameras, but only a few products that contain additional interactive features. Two examples are:
|Vigilus||Vigilant Robots||Vision based autonomous robot for robotic security applications|
|TrueSentry Edge||True Sentry||Security monitoring systems with real time analysis of images.|
As the name suggests, the EyesBot line uses visual processing to handle the majority of its information input needs, which is very consistent with the majority of security related software, but wholly unlike all of the cleaning products, and also more specialized than most of the tranport and maintenance robots.
The reason for visual input for EyesBot was purely practical, cameras on iOS devices permit an app to get a great deal of information about its environment. The processor on an iOS device, with the right software, is capable of reading an indicator, an LCD readout, or text. Additionally, devices that interact with each other can talk using lights on the LCD, rather than network or connection oriented protocols.
The price point for the EyesBot line is basically free, meaning at most a few dollars, but only for the software. The cheapest of the other products above is at least $300 for the cheapest cleaning robot. The cheapest lawnmower was over $1000. Anything with visual processing was much more expensive, and involved calling and talking with a salesman to get a quote.
EyesBot Driver will be the first of our products that will be able to move autonomously, and will likely be release as a few Apple app, with the hardware open-sourced with directions and video instructions available for creating the robot. The software is running and first prototype robot has been created. The release is now planned for the end of May. EyesBot driver will be aimed initially at the hobbyist market, but connecting the controller to a robot will take about $20 worth of discrete components and, optionally, a $15 Arduino Nano (but another type of microcontroller could be used).
At some point after the release of EyesBot Driver, we will release hardware kits and completed robots which will take over the world and make all humans their slaves include entertainment and cleaning features. The existing EyesBot apps contain security features.
How this relates to consumers
At this point three things are converging:
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Effecting the physical world