Category: Robots

The Rise and Fall of Pleo

05/30/09 | by admin [mail] | Categories: Robots, General

I’ve just found an interesting article with a link to the farewell talk of the Ugobe CTO John Sosoka at Stanford university:

Tough times for pet robots...

04/22/09 | by admin [mail] | Categories: Robots, General

There have been several hints earlier this year, but now it is official. Ugobe, the maker of the robotic pet dinosour Pleo has just filed chapter 7 bankruptcy.

After Sony had stopped the production of the AIBO pet robot in 2006, I was quite excited when I heard about the release of Pleo, a new programmable robot, selling for less than a sixth of the price of an AIBO. Pleo can percieve its environment using a camera, two microphones, multiple touch sensors, tilt and shake sensors as well as an infrared sensor and it moves in a slow but very natural way. In terms of sensors and actuators, Pleo was not much worse equipped than its “canine” predecessor. Unfortunately, Pleo is lacking wireless connectivity, but there is a solution for this:

I really wonder, if there will be any decent and commercially profitable pet/entertainment robots anytime soon… AIBO was canceled out of profitablity issues, Pleo ended in a bankruptcy and many other
A software development kit (PDK) had been promised by Ugobe to the developer and research community, but unfortunately it has never exceeded prototype state. The only successful entertainment robots I have seen so far, are essentially children’s toys with very low end sensors and actuators selling at a very low price tag, such as the RoboSapien and its kin.

I am quite sure, that the reason is not that adults do not like robots - when I conduct experiments with AIBO, most participants are fascinated by the little robotic dog - but I doubt, this is enough to make people actually buy a robot which is essentially an expensive toy. For the adult mass-market [which (unfortunately ;) )does not primarily consist of geeks and early adopters] a robot needs to be not only cute and fascinating but, above all, it needs to be useful. As useful functionality is still quite hard to implement in a small and affordable robot (How about crossbreeding AIBO and Roomba? B) ), I think we’ll still have to wait a couple of years for the first entertainment robot to become a commercial success.

Anyway, good bye, little Pleo!

A co-driver that never complains...

02/02/08 | by admin [mail] | Categories: Robots

I first saw Nissan’s Pivo 2 concept car at the Tokyo Motor Show last year. It has quite a number of interesting features, such as a cabin, that can rotate 360 degrees and tires, which can move independently from each other, which allow it to move sideways and facilitate parallel parking.

However, the most interesting thing from my point of view was their robotic co-driver. It monitors the driver’s mental state based on facial expressions and voice patterns, advises about free parking spaces and speed limits and helps you navigate. - and the best thing about it: It won’t tell you things like “Do you have to speed like an idiot???", “You should have turned left here!", “If you keep driving like a snail, we’ll never be in time"… so when can I preorder? :>>

You can find more information on the Nissan website:

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Robocup: A successor for AIBO?

07/24/07 | by admin [mail] | Categories: Robots, General

From 1st to 8th of July, the Robocup world championship took place in Atlanta. One of the highlights, apart from the games themselves, was the presentation of potential successors for the discontinued Sony AIBO in the four-legged-league. The final decision will be announced on 31st of July.
This is what I could find out about the candidates, so far:

The following four robots have been presented:

  • A robot dog and a robot bear made by the NUBOTS team from the University of Newcastle in cooperation with tribotix You can find some information including pictures and videos on their website.
  • A still nameless robot dog invented by the University of Darmstadt in Germany
  • Robudog, a robotic dog developed by the french company Robosoft
  • The robot dog BJ created by iXs Unfortunately the website is available in Japanese only, at the moment

Another robot, that was presented during the worldcup was the humanoid “Nao” by the french company Aldebaran Robotics. Some videos can be found on their homepage, too. This one looks very promising to me because it may have a broad range of applications also outside of RoboCup. The creators of the robot did not forget about expressivity and, moreover, the robot posesses stereo microphones and sound output for verbal interaction. While some of the presented robots seem to be 100% geared toward the robot soccer task, such as the robot dog proposed by the university of Darmstadt, which neither has a single LED in its “face” nor posesses microphones or a speaker but excels by its walking and video capturing capabilities, “Nao” might become the next real “AIBO Successor” being an allround platform for research and entertainment.

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I am a Ph.D. student at the National Institute of Informatics in Tokyo doing research in the field of Human-Robot-Interaction. Sometimes I come across interesting information, papers or links, that I would like to share, so I started this blog.

If you are interested, please also have a look at my publications.

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