Applied Physical Computing

John Keogh | March 26, 2013

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 DogBoston DynamicsA light cargo carrying robot that uses gyroscope, LIDAR and stereo vision for sensing. Mainly aimed at the military market.
PatrolBotActivMedia RoboticsComponent based robot, primarily for patrol or industrial use. Uses camera, visual or tactile sensors.
RobomowFriendly RoboticsAutonomous mower that uses a wire embedded in the ground and a sensor for determining location.


RoombaiRobotAutonomous vacuum cleaner, uses infrared and contact sensors for guidance
NeatoNeato RoboticsAutonomous vacuum cleaner, uses laser based guidance system
MintEvolution RoboticsAutonomous 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:
VigilusVigilant RobotsVision based autonomous robot for robotic security applications
TrueSentry EdgeTrue SentrySecurity 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:

  • Visual processing, previously only available on high end systems, will become available on mass market systems
  • What was a niche market will become a mass market, so most homes in the developed world will have some systems that interact with their environment, particularly for cleaning and security
  • The price will fall dramatically as the market expands and cost of the development of new technology can be spread across more units

Trademarks used in this post are the property of the respective trademark holder

Eyesbot Company

Computer vision

Artificial intelligence

Effecting the physical world