8 Robots Making Waves - InformationWeek

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10/27/2014
08:42 AM
Shane O'Neill
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8 Robots Making Waves

From caretaker humanoids to bomb detection vehicles, robots continue to move well past vacuuming. Check out new robots roaming the recent RoboBusiness conference.
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Robots invaded Boston this month, but in a good way.

RoboBusiness 2014, a business development event for the global robotics market, celebrated its 10th year in Beantown, a fitting locale considering how the Boston area has become such a hotbed of robotics innovation. The major companies with headquarters in the area include iRobot, Rethink Robotics, Harvest Automation, Boston Dynamics, and QinetiQ.

The conference spotlighted the latest robotics technology in action, with added context and insights from keynote speakers from MIT, NASA, iRobot, and Boeing.

The Sponsor Showcase room was the place to be on the final day of the conference. The press was allowed to interact with the many companies showcasing products. A stroll through the showroom revealed a colorful array of robotics and a feast for the eyes and imagination, ranging from adorable "social robots" to industrial robot arms to powered exoskeleton devices for paraplegics.

[For more on groundbreaking robots that could show up at your workplace, see Robots Rising: 7 Real-Life Roles.]

Each company proudly presented a shiny new version of its flagship product, happily pitching product details and strategy to this roaming reporter. Though I was hoping to see a driverless car in action, I had no such luck. However, the LiDAR sensor used on QinetiQ's unmanned robot vehicle is the same sensor used for Google's self-driving cars. So there's that.

The sheer diversity kept the showcase compelling. It's impossible to get bored when one booth spotlights a charismatic humanoid that helps autistic kids learn and the next houses an explosive detection vehicle that's seen action in Iraq.

These eight robotics technologies jumped out at me. A few of them even said hello.

Shane O'Neill is Managing Editor for InformationWeek. Prior to joining InformationWeek, he served in various roles at CIO.com, most notably as assistant managing editor and senior writer covering Microsoft. He has also been an editor and writer at eWeek and TechTarget. ... View Full Bio

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PedroGonzales
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PedroGonzales,
User Rank: Ninja
10/28/2014 | 6:39:37 PM
Re: Re-Walk
if robotic companies can get disable people to just walk by using an exoskeleton, now that will be a huge achievement.  I find the robots for autistic children very cute, but their cost really impedes their introduction into school and everyday life.  I spoke with people in the cleaning business about the roomba.  They told me that although the robot is good, it doesn't clean many areas that well. 
saliknaqi
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saliknaqi,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/28/2014 | 12:21:29 PM
Re: When will they become affordable.
I too was surprised by the specifications, made me wonder it would be quite amazing to hang around. Yeah $2700 sounds affordable to me if its like a long term investment.
mak63
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mak63,
User Rank: Ninja
10/28/2014 | 2:32:31 AM
Re: When will they become affordable.
@saliknaqi

The Nao looks expensive at 8 grand, but the Zeno R25 is $2700. Well worth a price if you ask me, if can help children with autism. Don't you think?

But the way, I'm amazed at the specs of the Zeno. A dual core processor, with 1 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage. It sounds like an entry-level smartphone.
nasimson
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nasimson,
User Rank: Ninja
10/27/2014 | 9:26:11 PM
Re-Walk
> it enables paraplegics to stand up, walk, and even climb stairs. ReWalk was recently given
> FDA approval for home and public use and is the only system of its type with such approval. 

Rewalk is a very interesting innovation. I am glad it has FDA approval for home and even public use. The way technology is augmenting physically-challenged people is amazing. I foresee that as competition kicks in and technology matures, the cost will come down from USD 80,000. And then when insurers start to cover the robotic assistance, VIOLA!
Whoopty
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Whoopty,
User Rank: Ninja
10/27/2014 | 1:14:54 PM
UR5
That UR5 robot is quite exciting for those of us that still harbour fantasies of being Tony Stark one day. 

ZENo R25 looks like it comes from a Child's Play sequel: "Chucky... in SPACE!"

That aside, love the idea of using robotics to help teach children who don't respond well to adults, though I wonder how human-to-human communication can be introduced slowly so that it's not a culture shock when real emotions are shown?
saliknaqi
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saliknaqi,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/27/2014 | 11:35:40 AM
When will they become affordable.
@ Shane O'Neil The Zeno R25 and The Nao robot can have alot of commercial usage. They can really be helpful to people suffering from autism. Bur do people choose them for assistance considering there cost? 
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