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Each month we pose a question of general interest to the robotics community, and ask our panel of experts to answer.
Robohub is an online platform that brings together leading communicators in robotics research, start-ups, business, and education from around the world.
by   -   March 12, 2014

robohub_cover
It’s the top-of-mind question for every would-be entrepreneur, and with the Robot Launch 2014 competition deadline coming up on March 30, it’s an especially fitting question to pose to our panelists this month.

So how do you get from imagination to market? Here’s what our experts have to say …


by and   -   February 12, 2014

If the world outside the robotics community didn’t know about Boston Dynamics, Kiva and Nest, they do now. Recent robotics acquisitions and investments by major-league players like Google, Apple and Amazon have generated a blitz of headlines in the robotics world and beyond. Are we witnessing a power play in the making? What does it mean for the future of robotics? And is all the hype beneficial or harmful to the robotics community?

This month’s Robotics by Invitation will serve as a launch for Robohub’s newest focus series on how big time corporate attention effects the culture of robotics. In the coming weeks we will be bringing you insight from the likes of Steve Cousins, Dan Kara, Valery Komissarova, Avner LevinChad PartridgeGill Pratt, Erin Rapacki, Frank Tobe, and Rob Wilson.

Today, RBI panelists Colin Lewis, Mark Stephen Meadows, AJung Moon and Alan Winfield weigh in …


by   -   January 15, 2014

chip_brain_cyborg

 

cy·borg  -  ˈsīˌbôrg/ - noun

a fictional or hypothetical person whose physical abilities are extended beyond normal human limitations by mechanical elements built into the body

This month we asked our Robotics by Invitation experts to tell how they would use robotics to enhance themselves. Here’s what they have to say …


by   -   December 11, 2013

Times_Rise_of_Drones_Cover_Feb_2013_12013 is drawing to a close, and what a year it’s been — not just for robotics news, but robotics-in-the-news too … this year has probably seen more news about robotics in the mainstream press than any year prior. This month we asked our Robotics by Invitation experts to tell what they thought the top robotics stories of the year were. Here’s what they have to say …


by   -   November 13, 2013

Tokyo_Big_Sight

Photo credit: Taichi on Wikimedia Commons.

Robohub team members just returned from an exciting trip to Tokyo, where we attended the 2013 IROS conference and the concurrent iREX robot expo. With so many excellent projects, so many insightful lectures, and so many innovative robots — not to mention the many consecutive tracks! — it was hard for any one person to take it all in.

This month we asked our Robotics by Invitation experts to tell us about what stood out for them at this year’s event. Here’s what they have to say …


by   -   October 9, 2013

Open source vs. proprietary software is an age old question. Since the advent of robotics, we also have the question of open source hardware.

In academia, where robotics researchers look to open source as a means of advancing community knowledge, the answer is perhaps more obvious. But in business, it’s clearly a balancing act. And so, ‘To be open, or not to be open?’ — that is the question for our panelists this month.

We asked Frank Tobe, Robert Morris and Brian Gerkey to weigh in. Here’s what they have to say …

 

Gerkey BrianBrian Gerkey on “Is open source a good business model for robotics?”

The IT economy has powerfully demonstrated what happens when companies can leverage open source infrastructure when they build new products and services.  A company like Google would never have come into existence had they not been able to rely from the beginning on solid open source tools like Python and GCC.  IBM would arguably have not been able to make its immensely successful pivot from products to services without Linux.  How many startups these days begin as a cloud-hosted machine running some derivative of the venerable LAMP stack? …

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robert-morrisRobert Morris on “Is open source a good business model for robotics?”

The premise of this question is that robotics companies are manufacturers and that there is choice between an open source and closed source business model.  Robotics companies are best thought of as service companies (even manufacturers, especially when moving beyond early adopters) and openness is not an ‘either/or’ choice, but rather a continuum.  In this day and age the question is, ‘What do you need to keep open create value for your customers?’ …

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Mark-Tilden

Frank Tobe on “Is open source a good business model for robotics?”

Certainly robotics has its share of proprietary software and control systems. Each robot manufacturer markets their products based on the need for secure, proprietary and un-shared systems so that they can ensure stability and control. Whole industries have been set up to bridge those proprietary barriers so that multi-vendor solutions can happen …

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by   -   September 15, 2013

After a (relatively) quiet August, Rohobub is gearing up again this September as everyone in the robotics community heads back to work and school.

This month, as part of our soon-to-launch focus series “Getting Started in Robotics” we decided to ask our panel of experts “What is the best way to get a robotics education today?” And for our readers who are taking the long view to their robotics education, we followed up with “What do you look for when hiring a roboticist?”

Here’s how our panelists weighed in …

 

Theresa RichardsTheresa Richards on “What is the best way to get a robotics education today?”

At the high school or middle school level there is no single best way for students to get a robotics education: there are many ways, and each way reaches the students differently. The easiest way is for students to join an established team …

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Matthew SchroyerMatthew Schroyer on “What is the best way to get a robotics education today?”

A quality learning experience centered on robotics is hard to find for many students who lack STEM resources through their own schools. Although new science standards hope to improve the situation, K-12 schools are struggling to provide a basic STEM education, let alone opportunities involving more specialized lessons in robotics …

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Mark TildenMark Tilden on “What is the best way to get a robotics education today?”

In the past, a robotics education started with any inspiration that filtered through the sparse media of the time. Imagine a dull illness during a bland winter, black and white TV on a fuzzy channel, and then out of nowhere, mom drops a Jack Kirby ’Fantastic Four’ comic on your sickbed …

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Terry FongTerry Fong on “What is the best way to get a robotics education today? What do you look for when hiring?”

We look for good people from all over the world who have had some formal education in robotics theory, particularly in the basics of kinematics, perception, and cognition. Many universities offer courses in these areas …

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Jonathan RobertsJonathan Roberts on “What do you look for when hiring a roboticist?”

We are looking for researchers who are highly motivated, and who are passionate about seeing the results of their research come to fruition and be used by industry or the public. They should have a demonstrated ability to conduct internationally-recognized, cutting-edge research in robotics, and have a great publication record …

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Nicola TomatisNicola Tomatis on “What do you look for when hiring a roboticist?”

We still hire also R&D personnel, but we primarily want to have the best specialists, not necessarily robotics generalists. Of course, we value a background in robotics, but this is not a must …

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by   -   August 15, 2013

Robohub.org - robot_facial_expressionsRobots are machines and most people agree that they primarily serve a utilitarian purpose. So why do so many of them have heads? Here are some thoughts by AJung Moon, Mark Stephen Meadows, Travis Deyle, and David Robert.

 

 

AJung Moon
AJung Moon on “Do robots need heads?”

Are you curious about what your future robotic assistants will look like? My bet is that by the time you buy your very first robotic butler, it will have a friendly head on it that moves. In fact, it would be a good idea to make robots with heads if they are intended to share spaces and objects with people. That’s because …

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Mark Stephen Meadows
Mark Stephen Meadows on “Do robots need heads?”

I don’t know about you, but if something has a head I assume it has thoughts. When watching a movie I stare at the character’s face because I want to know what they feel. So for me a head’s a pretty important thing. If I’m going to talk with a robot, …

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Travis Deyle
Travis Deyle on “Do robots need heads?”

The obvious answer to this question is “No: there are lots of robots without heads.” It’s not even clear that social robots necessarily require a head, …

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David Robert
David Robert on “Do robots need heads?”

As a robot animator I can attest to the fact that robots don’t “need” heads to be treated as social entities. Research has shown that people will befriend a stick as long as it moves properly. We have a long-standing habit of anthropomorphizing things that aren’t human by attributing to them human-level personality traits or internal motivations based on cognitive-affective architectures that just aren’t there. …

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by   -   July 15, 2013

Economic policy may not jump to mind as a hot topic for roboticists, but it is a fundamental and influential driver behind the failure or success of the robotics community as a whole. After all, economic policy is what’s behind how governments set their interest rates, determine their budgets, enforce their rules for the labour market and deal with questions of national ownership.

This month we asked Robotics by Invitation panel members Rich Mahoney and Frank Tobe for their take on what policy-makers need to do to keep economic development apace with important developments in robotics. Here’s what they have to say …


Illah Nourbakhsh

Rich Mahoney on “What do policy-makers need to do to keep pace with economic development?”

 

I am not sure how to describe the specifics of what policy makers should do, but I think there are two gaps that policy makers should think about that are associated with the economic development impact of robotics: sufficient funding to support an emerging robotics marketplace; and  detailed descriptions of the innovations needed to solve specific problems …

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Mark-Tilden

Frank Tobe on “What do policy-makers need to do to keep pace with economic development?”

I think the biggest thing happening today is the acceptance of the low-cost Baxter and Universal robots into SMEs and small factories everywhere.  Sales will likely be 2% of the total; 5% in 2014 and possibly 15% in 2015. That’s growth! And that’s before the might of the big four robot makers start selling their low-cost entry robots for SMEs …

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by   -   June 17, 2013

‘Bean-counting’ is a dull but necessary component of every grant proposal; it helps to keep our plans realistic, doable and accountable. But what if we weren’t tied to grants and budgets? Would it change the way we approach our work?

This month we asked the Robotics by Invitation panel to tell us what kind of research they would undertake if money weren’t an obstacle. Here’s what Mark Tilden and Illah Nourbakhsh have to say …

 

Illah Nourbakhsh

Illah Nourbaksh on “What would you research if you did not have to worry about grants?”

 Community empowerment through massive robotic sensing. There is no question we live in a world that is changing. Pollutants are changing the dynamics of the air we breathe, the water we drink and even the soil on which we live. Yet the power to measure pollution …

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Mark-Tilden

Mark Tilden on “What would you research if you did not have to worry about grants?”

 Well, I’m lucky enough to be a gentleman scientist, so I concurrently study problems on minimal dynamical control systems (optimizing performance to silicon ratios), power regeneration and efficiency, alien robot morphologies …

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by   -   May 15, 2013

It has been said that we are on the edge of a ‘robotic tipping point’ … but where, exactly, is this edge? And what’s holding us back?  This month we asked our panelists to weigh in on what’s keeping robots from going mainstream. Here’s what they have to say …

Gerkey Brian Brian Gerkey on “What is the single biggest obstacle preventing robotics from going mainstream?”

The biggest obstacle to broader adoption of robotics is that only experienced roboticists can develop robotics applications. To make a robot reliably and robustly do something useful, you need a deep understanding of a broad variety of topics, from state estimation to perception to path planning …

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Mark Tilden Mark Tilden on “What is the single biggest obstacle preventing robotics from going mainstream?”

From experience, the single biggest obstacle to personal robotic markets is cost, both in money and time. Robots have the disadvantage of being over-promoted in fictional media while over-priced on the shelves. Sci-fi is fine to inspire if builders feel the money-time is justified, but …

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Alan-Winfield Alan Winfield on “What is the single biggest obstacle preventing robotics from going mainstream?”

Well it depends on what you mean by mainstream. For a number of  major industry sectors robotics is already mainstream. In assembly-line automation, for instance; or undersea oil well maintenance and inspection …

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by   -   April 15, 2013

To coincide with Robohub’s Jobs Focus, we asked our panelists to weigh in on the role that robots play in the wider economy, and whether this is a good thing or a bad thing for employment numbers. Here’s what they have to say:

John-DulchinosJohn Dulchinos feature article: “The great equalizer: How robotics frees manufacturers from consolidating in low-wage nations”

These days it is hard to read an article about the future of robots that does not include a reference to jobs. As a pure roboticist, I object to the constant connection between the two, but as a concerned citizen I think it is a worthwhile discussion …

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Raffaello-DAndrea.jpgRaffaello D’Andrea on “Do robots kill jobs?”

There is no doubt that robots, and automation in general, replace humans in the work-force: all productivity-enhancing tools, by definition, result in a decrease in the number of man-hours required to perform a given task …

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Mark Tilden
Mark Tilden on “Do robots kill jobs?”

Robots do kill jobs but they’re crappy jobs, so good riddance.  If you’ve ever had a job you were desperate for the money, but immediately regretted after you got it, then you know what I mean. …

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We hope you will join the discussion. Feel free to post your comment below.

See all the posts in Robohub’s Jobs Focus →


by   -   March 15, 2013

Updated March 17, 2013 | This month we’ve asked our experts to weigh in on the future of robotics in warfare, and the broadness of this topic has prompted some of our panelists to push back and request that the question be rephrased in narrower terms. Certainly there are many sides to this question, and we plan to tease them out in future RBIs. However, we think it’s important to begin with broad strokes, and so we leave it to our panelists to weigh in, each from their own perspective.

Raffaello-DAndrea.jpgRaffaello D’Andrea on “How will robots shape the future of warfare?”

How will robots shape the future of war?  I don’t know. I think that the more important question, however, is: what role should robots have in warfare? In my answer I have tried (as much as is humanly possible) to put myself in the role of an alien dispassionately analyzing the situation …

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Daniel-WilsonDaniel H. Wilson on “How will robots shape the future of warfare?”

Robots have already changed the face of modern warfare, particularly through the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), commonly called “drones.” Currently, armed drone aircraft are in widespread use transnationally and have proven highly effective.

Read more →

 


Mark Tilden
Mark Tilden on “How will robots shape the future of warfare?”

Robot machines have been shaping the future of war since the first siege engines appeared in ancient times (I like to think the Trojan Horse was motorized).  Now with technology extending our military reach and impact …

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We hope you will join the discussion. Feel free to post your comment below.


by   -   February 15, 2013

Welcome to Robotics by Invitation! This month we’ve asked our experts to weigh in on the best way to create tomorrow’s robotics industry. Here’s what they have to say:

Raffaello-DAndreaRaffaello D’Andrea on “What funding scheme is the most conducive to creating a robotics industry?”

The best way to commercialize robotics research is to make better connections between academics and entrepreneurs.  Academics venturing out into the business world tend to …

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Henrik ChristensenHenrik Christensen on “What funding scheme is the most conducive to creating a robotics industry?”

The public should in most cases not subsidize companies. Tax payers should not be venture capitalists. The new wave of Lean Startup going around the world is a great model to ensure that …

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Mark Tilden
Mark Tilden on “What funding scheme is the most conducive to creating a robotics industry?”

Funding schemes aren’t viable until we can make more innovative roboticists, and over the years I’ve tried several methods of engendering the Divine Frankenstein Complex in others …

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Frank Tobe
Frank Tobe on “What funding scheme is the most conducive to creating a robotics industry?”

Funding new robotic projects in America is mostly done two different ways:
(1) strategic funding from NASA, DARPA, DoD, NSF and other government organizations to do the pure science involved in solving stumbling blocks in robotics, and …

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Nicola Tomatis
Nicola Tomatis on “What funding scheme is the most conducive to creating a robotics industry?”

I would like to start from the other side: “Why is robotics great in creating new technologies and poor in creating new businesses? …”

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We hope you will join the discussion. Feel free to post your comment.


by   -   January 15, 2013

Welcome to Robotics by Invitation! Each month we pose a question of general interest to the robotics community, and ask our panel of experts to answer.

So, where would the experts invest their money? Our panel members weigh in:

 

Frank Tobe Frank Tobe on “If you had a EUR 100M investment fund, into which robotics technology or field of robotics would you put your money?”

As the robotics industry continues to grow, enters new industries, and provides new applications, strategic focus is necessary or the overall industry will develop haphazardly and spread out …

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Mark TildenMark Tilden on “If you had a EUR 100M investment fund, into which robotics technology or field of robotics would you put your money?”

Well if it was for fun, I’d invest in autonomous paving mothers (APMs).  A self-driving solar-powered mobile furnace robot that eats sand and dirt and spits out interlocking solar-panel paving stones …

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Henrik ChristensenHenrik Christensen on “If you had a EUR 100M investment fund, into which robotics technology or field of robotics would you put your money?”

Robots for manufacturing. Generating a new family of robots that have a fluent interaction with humans. It will be easily programmable. Some would argue that Baxter provides this functionality …

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Herman BruyninckxHerman Bruyninckx on “If you had a EUR 100M investment fund, into which robotics technology or field of robotics would you put your money?”

A project that would (1) represent human knowledge about manufacturing in an ontology server; (2) focus on system integration software and hardware issues …

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We hope you will join the discussion. Feel free to post your comment.


Rbi answers: