Overheard: Word of the Day

Feb 26 2009   1:23AM GMT

Overheard: American market soft on robots

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse

lanceulanoff.gif If iRobot had made a 4-foot-tall Roomba with a face and a hand to hold a vacuum hose, the company wouldn’t have sold more than ten units.

Lance Ulanoff, Why can’t American consumers handle the future that robotics is willing to offer?

Yesterday CNN had a short article about the RG3, a new robot lawnmower for golf courses.  One of the challenges in developing the mower was figuring out how to ‘teach’ the robot boundries so it would know when to stop mowing.  According to Scott Jones, RG3′s navigation system uses a combination of ultrasonics and infrared to triangulate its location within a perimeter that’s created by four beacons.  Basically, it works like Roomba, my favorite robot of all time.

I’ve had Roomba for four years now — yet when I talk about how it starts itself up each day at noon, cleans the entire downstairs and then puts itself back on the charger, people look at me like I’m making it up.

I don’t get it.  We Americans are perfectly willing to accept that our telephones can be used to view movies, listen to audiobooks, play games and send and receive mail — but when it comes to believing that a robot can be more than a toy, we’re skeptical.

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BTW, here’s some of my other favorite robots…

(If you can’t see the video, allow pop-ups and refresh the page)

BigDog military transport robot

Supply chain distribution robots

Robot playing the flute

Toyota robot playing the trumpet

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