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February 26, 2013 > Robot Report

Robot Report

Submitted By Frank Tobe

This seems to be the year when robotics is taking center stage. Just check the TV ads of Verizon, GE, Kia, etc. And listen to comedians Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert and David Letterman. Heated dialogue about drones and future UAVs is in the news. Robotics appears to have hit critical mass: toys, therapy robots, co-workers, lower cost industrial robots, go-fers, kiosks, remote-presence, surveillance devices, agriculture robots, etc. All are demanding our attention front and center.

Last year's acquisitions (e.g., Kiva Systems, Schilling, Aquabotics) and partnerships (e.g., Schulumberger and Liquid Robotics) portend that the money side of the industry is likely to do well too. The Robot Report's year-end Robo-Stox(TM) recap of how robot industry stocks performed is an example.

Finally, the global map of robot makers has a filtering option so that site visitors can selectively look at any single category, e.g., start-up companies - try it out.

Recent robotic developments include:

Oshkosh and Lockheed are capitalizing on demand For military AGVs...
The Oshkosh TerraMax UGV is capable of tele-operations, being a leader or follower, and fully autonomous operation. The Marine Corps are evaluating it as part of their Cargo UGV initiative.

Lockheed Martin's SMSSs (squad mission support systems) are rolling off the line for deployment in Afghanistan after winning the Army Project Workhorse competition. The SMSS has the capability to be remotely operated via satellite link. It can also carry 1,100 pounds of cargo and serve as a remote surveillance unit.

Is this the cheapest floor robot?
O-Duster is an O-Cedar product from Channell Chemical Company, a division of the Freudenberg Group, a German conglomerate. The O-Duster has an auto-navigation feature and mops an area similar to the way other robotic vacuums do. The O-Duster will be available at U.S. retailers including HEB, Publix, ShopRite, Target, Wal-Mart and Winn Dixie for $39.99. Electrostatic pad refills are available in packs of 20 for $8.99.

Open Source Vet Simulation Center
Dental students have robotic simulators, med students and surgeons have theirs too, and now Cornell University's College of Veterinary Medicine has one. They have a simulation center with two fully equipped exam rooms, two rooms for live video-feed observation and debriefing, and two robotic pets - a dog and a cat. Cornell's Dr. Dan Fletcher says, "Through the use of these new facilities we can enhance CPR scenarios and can simulate a slew of other conditions." Using open source hardware and software, Fletcher and his team developed their system and share it with other universities and veterinary centers.

GE and Verizon Advertise using robots
Verizon TV advertisements feature VGo Communications mobile telepresence robots streaming large amounts of data through their 4G LTE network. One ad shows a young home-bound student remotely attending and participating in a class; the other shows how kids, far away from the ocean, participated in a field trip to an ocean aquarium. GE's TV ads feature a variety of brilliant machines (robots and smart jet engines) for transforming the way we work.

$100 million P-P-P suggestion for healthcare robotics
Op-ed piece suggesting $100 million be invested in developing eldercare robot similar to the robot in the movie "Robot & Frank." EU is already funding a similar project called Companionable with their robot named Hector. If America doesn't lead in robotics, they will continue to be a buyer of robots made in Germany and Japan. America launched the industrial robotics industry but all but one of the major robot manufacturers are offshore. $100 million invested in a public-private-partnership to develop, design, engineer, manufacture and market home health and elder care robots could change that dynamic.

Leap Motion gets $30 million for new Kinect-like device
A hot new Leap Motion Kinect-like product gets another $30 million (bringing the total to $44 million). Leap Motion controller senses individual hand and finger movements so you can interact directly with your computer. Device covers range of 8 cubic feet of 3D interaction space. The expected sales price is $70; available in the spring. Bye, bye mice.

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