To USB or Not to USB


Robots and USB (still mostly Robots)

Robots and USB (still mostly Robots)

“Pepper, an ivory-colored android about the height of a seven-year-old, can detect and respond to human emotions via vocal cues and facial expressions. It has already been deployed as a friendly assistant in Japanese stores and homes. MERA, specifically designed as an at-home companion for the elderly, records and analyzes videos of a person’s face and calculates vital signs such as heart and breathing rates.“ – Scientific American, Catherine Caruso on May 22, 2017


Robots in homes and caregiving

Baby monitors provide an audio feed and a video feed.   We can imagine a world where baby monitors become robot “nannies”.  The robot can follow a child around, monitor possible dangers, restrict movement.   For the growing elderly population, the market will be even larger in the coming years.   (We have given baby monitors to friends caring for elderly parents/spouses).


We can imagine the robot nannies could be simple, or provide video conferencing/care, remind the elderly to take medicine, drink fluids, eat more veggies, exercise more.

Some completely autonomous, some semi-autonomous.

A range of home assistance is being attempted, mostly not holistically. Lot of people trying to tie IoT in a range of crazy, not connected devices (without security as far as I can tell).  Robots could be built and adapted with new apps and appendages.  In my mind, it’s easy because you would add an appendage as a USB peripheral. Clamp the new appendage to the base frame, use USB to connect the arm/appendage, and power and data are connected. (Please do not use for surgery).    When I say appendage, I really mean any new application, any feature. It could be replacing a microphone, camera, or screen.  A pill dispenser, an infrared sensor, or a WiFi/Bluetooth module.


Most interesting to me is the idea of the robot companion. (I actually believe this is too far).  Japan has explored this idea for some time.   Its aging population combined with fewer young people mean fewer caregivers for the elderly.

A Robot aid helping with the mechanics of caregiving and as a video interface to the world is simple and easy to deploy. It’s basically an iPad on wheels (or a rotating base). I like the idea put forward in this video.


At a minimum, even non-autonomous robots will need sensors to keep from hitting things. Autonomous robots will have lots of sensors and embedded vision thingees.


Embedded vision in robots of all kinds

Embedded Vision will continue to be critical to robot cars, robot manufacturing, and robot caregivers.

We imagine future devices (Amazon/Echo/Alexa) will all have a range of cameras and microphones. Cameras/sensors will dominate the robot world.  Able to “see” not just the visual human range, but infrared, and other stuff on the radiated/EM spectrum.  (For example, I can imagine a device that specifically looks for moving Bluetooth, WiFi, LTE signals as another way to look for a pedestrian walking across the street, talking or looking at their cell phone.  It would be one more way for a car/truck to detect a human being in addition to heat (infrared) and vision (visible).


Multiple sensors are required to allow for judging distances. So for many sensors, you need at least two, plus the whole 360 degrees of vision to see cars/pedestrians/trains, bikes, from everywhere.


At the office:


Today, you can buy a robot, put it in the office, and have it occupy a space in your office. It has a camera and microphone and speaker. So, for Example, I can be at home and log in to my “Eric Robot” it will display my real time video face, walk around the cubes so I can “meet” with people.  I personally find this absurd for the work environment.


Most of what brings value to work relationships developed through shared work experiences. The presence of a mechanical (I mean metal) body does nothing to make this better.

Normally, I’d say it’s better to make the 3 hour round trip into work 2x a week, and just call people on the phone or use a video call.

Then I saw this video from Wired that made me think there might be some meetings where being a robot might make sense.


My belief is that there is no substitution for the human contact. It will be interesting if the economics (relative low cost) of having robots and programmers and technicians to support them, is some how cheaper in the long run.



Then you have the Cheetah robot which shows how a infrared sensor can run and jump over obstacles.



My thinking is that you have this running around the office as my office robot. Just put an iPad on top with Face time and I’ll be all set.


The Scientific American article concludes with this thought


“…Matarić points out that robots may also offer some benefits over their flesh-and-blood counterparts. “Machines are infinitely patient,”…”


Let’s hope these robots are ready when I need them.

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