Will We Accept Robots Living and Working with Us?

Robots at Work
By Steve Jurvetson from Menlo Park, USA (Caught Coding Uploaded by PDTillman) [CC BY 2.0

Humans and Robots

Perhaps this is the most important question about humans and robots.  Can humans and robots coexist on this world?  There are already robots in our homes and there are certainly robots in our workplaces.  So, there is some relationship already.  Some people are already very attached to their bots.People dress up Roombas as pets and give them names.  Other folks become so attached to their robotic companions they have funerals when they cease to function.  And, according to the article that inspired this post, people are very reluctant to even cause harm to a robot.

Personal Experience with Robots

There is something in human nature that makes us attach human attributes to those machines around us.  Seems very weird, but I have seen this occur in my life.  I have several robots in my office that I use for educational workshops and presentations.  Maybe its hard to admit, but I would be very sad to see one of them break.  I don’t think I would hold a funeral for my Tetrix robot, but I would miss having it with me for presentations.

My little humanoid robot will be the hardest to see go to the great robot beyond.  Possibly that is because it talks and seems to relate to humans around it.  Yes, I know its a machine that is programmed to act that way, but still it has become one of my favorite bots.

Robots in the Home and at Work

It seems likely as robots are put into homes, they will become companions to their owners.  Relationships will develop.  It is not as clear to me that robots in the workplace will be perceived in the same way.  On the other hand, military robots have become very popular with the soldiers they work with in the field.  Robots are given names and sometimes the robot have the names painted on them.  The robots that seek out explosives and mines are seen by the personnel as members of their units.  They are missed or even mourned if they become damaged or destroyed.  This has been documented in situations in the recent Middle East wars.

Humanoid Robots

By Tokumeigakarinoaoshima (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

 So, what can we make of this.  Will robots become companions or even friends as they become more commonplace in homes and work?  Does it make a difference if the robot is humanoid?  These are difficult questions to answer and research will need to be done to see how this could effect robot use.

What do you think about this?  Let me know by leaving a comment.

The robots have arrived but will we ever live in harmony with them or will we remain suspicious of their intentions?

Source: Intelligent machines: Will we accept robot revolution? – BBC News

Robotic Lawn Mowers: Are We at the Breakthrough Moment?

Have you ever wanted to mow the lawn while sitting on your front porch sipping iced tea?  If this is something that sounds too good to be true, this may be one of those times that it is true!  Robotic lawn mowers may have finally come into their own.

What exactly is a lawn-mowing robot?

A robotic lawn mower is an autonomous robot used to cut lawn grass. A typical robotic lawn mower requires the user to set up a border wire around the lawn that defines the area to be mowed.

Robot mowers tend to either be able to mow very fast and cover large areas of lawn or to be slower and more precise.  Most of the mower bots have been used in commercial applications such as golf courses.

Robotic lawn mowers

Mowing the lawn is one of those tasks that is destined to be a big robotics market when the technology finally advances to the point to make the robot mowers cost-effective and easy to set-up and use.  As far as dreaded jobs around the house, it ranks right up there with dishwashing and laundry.

A brief history of robotic lawn mowers

It might be hard to imagine, but the first or at least one of the first robotic mowers was introduced in 1969.

Possibly the first commercial robotic lawn mower was the MowBot, introduced and patented in 1969 and already showing many features of today’s most popular products.

Robotic Lawn MowersMost of the barriers to the wide use of robotic lawnmowers by the average homeowner has been the expense of the units and the fact that a boundary wire had to be set up to keep the mower from straying into the neighbors bed of prized roses.  By the end of 2005, robotic lawn mowers were the second largest category of domestic robots.  By 2012, the sales of robotic lawn mowers far outpaced that of the traditional mowers.

Several features have changed over the years in the mowing robots.  For one, many of the robots are self-docking.  They can park themselves when finished with the job.  Another feature of some robotic mowers is the addition of rain sensors.  What these added technologies mean is that the robots do nearly all the lawn mowing work.

Smartphone use has increased to the point that some robotic mowers now incorporate their use.  Many have integrated features within custom apps.  The apps can be used to adjust settings or schedule mowing times and frequency.  It is possible to manually control the mower with a digital joystick from the device.

The new iRobot mowers use a system of stakes that broadcast a radio signal to mark the boundaries for the bot.


The recent approval of iRobot’s application for its new robot mower is not without controversy.  Although the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has stated that the devices will not interfere with a critical area of radio frequencies used by radio telescopes, many radio astronomers are not convinced of the arguments.  They remain opposed to the use of these radio transmitters in the boundary of the mowers.

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has recently given its approval to the company for the release of a robotic lawn mower (RLM), according to a report from Reuters. FCC ensured that the signal beacon from iRobot’s device does not interfere with radio signals.

Are robotic lawn mowers finally at the breakthrough moment?  Would you buy one?  Tell me what you think.

Source: Robotic lawn mower from iRobot receives approval from FCC

iRobot Shows Off Educational Program

iRobot is demonstrating it is serious about its education outreach program.  SPARK or Starter Programs for the Advancement of Robotics Knowledge, as the program is known, is out to show students and teachers how robots work.  Previously, this effort was detailed in a post from September 8, 2009 here on RobotNext.  It would be nice to see iRobot use its iCreate platform to greater effect.  Read the article at the link below.

iRobot launches educational program
Boston Globe
The object of the initiative is to help educators, parents and students use "the wonder and genius of robots" to inspire students in K-12 schools.
iRobot Launches New Initiative to 'SPARK' STEM Education in the Classroom Business Wire (press release)
all 12 news articles »

iRobot launches educational program – Boston Globe
(author unknown)
Mon, 07 Dec 2009 15:56:09 GMT

iRobot Opens Healthcare Division

Here are two stories about iRobot’s latest entry in the robotics field.  iRobot has decided to create a robot to assist elderly patients in there homes.  The question is will this robot also vacuum the floors?  iRobot calls this area of robotics assistive technology and it’s purpose is to promote wellness and quality of life for seniors.  I don’t see why this would be limited to older folks, it would seem that anyone in need of assistance in their home could benefit from these machines.  Read the articles below for more on these homecare bots.

press release:

BEDFORD, Mass.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–iRobot Corp. (Nasdaq: IRBT – News) today announced that Colin Angle, iRobot’s chairman and chief executive officer, will discuss the role of robots in the future of healthcare during a presentation at the TEDMED conference in San Diego, Calif.
At the event, Angle will also introduce Tod Loofbourrow, president of iRobot’s newly-created healthcare business unit. The new business unit is committed to exploring the potential of robotics as an assistive technology to promote wellness and enhance quality of life for seniors. In this role, Loofbourrow will be responsible for all aspects of the group’s strategy, research and operations. He will report directly to Angle.

iRobot Creates Health Care Business Unit, Names New President
Thu, 29 Oct 2009 13:20:00 GMT

Boston Globe

In 1978, at age 16, Tod Loufbourrow published a book called "How to build a computer-controlled robot." A few years later, he went off to Harvard,
See all stories on this topic

Bots for Seniors: iRobot Creates New Division to Serve Eldercare Market
Boston Globe
Thu, 29 Oct 2009 14:18:33 GMT

iRobot Lights Up SPARK for Robotics Education

I have thought for some time now that iRobot could really make an impact in robotics education.  The Robot Stock News blog has this article about the new program sponsored by iRobot that may finally be the thing that promotes robotics education for the company.  After all, they are pioneers in robotics, and as such, it is to their advantage to promote the learning side of robotics.  The iRobot Create has long been touted as an education tool, but I far as I know, it has never lived up to its billing.  Too bad, since I personally like the Create as an education platform.  Lots of potential for development in that system.  So, this is a worthy effort and one deserving of wide-spread support.  One thing for sure is that there cannot be enough robotics education programs.  Students love robots and robots will be the hook to get kids into science, math, engineering, and technology fields.

The photo thumbnail below links to the CNET article from January 7, 2007 on robots built using the Create base platform.  If you look there, you will see a robot that can hand you a canned beverage, a hamster-steered robot, and an robot that serves up advertisements.


Photo Credit:  iRobot

Here's some real exciting news — iRobot is getting ready to debut a major new effort to kickstart robotics education. It's called SPARK, and iRobot is testing a new website to go along with the effort, with what looks like a dozen major partner. The website is at this link.

iRobot Launching "SPARK" Program to Ramp Up Robotics Education
thorn_stevens (noreply@blogger.com)
Tue, 08 Sep 2009 01:26:00 GMT

Weekly Newswrap: Military Robots

This week featured a number of stories on the “Robotics Rodeo” held at Fort Hood, Texas this week.  Here at RobotNext, I decided to feature some of these posts since they were not covered here during the week.  At the robot rodeo, the point was to see what machines have been developed with the research funds the military has provided to companies over the years.  So, about 30 exhibitors showed up to display their bots.  Read the stories below to see the wide range of robots that the armed forces are looking at for future service.  Also, the one story listed below that is not about the “Rodeo” is the one from iRobot on the new contract it has received to produce more robots for the military.  It is the featured story from Tuesday.

Robots gear up for duty in 'rodeo' at Fort Hood – Fort Worth Star Telegram

News 8 Austin

Robots gear up for duty in 'rodeo' at Fort Hood
Fort Worth Star Telegram
"If a robot gets blown up, all we have to do is get another one," he said. Thousands of robots are already working in Iraq and Afghanistan, not to mention
Fort Hood shows off its robot armyTemple Daily Telegram
Photos: Robots on the road to safer convoysCNET News
Robot Gunslinger: Steady there, cowboy Mark Rutherford/CNETPopular Science
Killeen Daily HeraldArmyTimes.comCNET News
all 10 news articles »

Robots gear up for duty in 'rodeo' at Fort Hood – Fort Worth Star Telegram
Sun, 06 Sep 2009 18:55:23 GMT

Fort Hood shows off its robot army – TDTNews.com – Temple Daily …

Kairos Autonomi demonstrates a double bot system at the Fort Hood Robot Rodeo on Thursday. The pickup has an autonomous navigation system so it can go driverless to an area where IED activity is suspected. The tank-like robot on the
Temple Daily Telegram News Feed – http://www.tdtnews.com/

Fort Hood shows off its robot army – TDTNews.com – Temple Daily
(author unknown)
Sun, 06 Sep 2009 11:29:57 GMT

Hood hosts ‘Robotics Rodeo’ – Army Times

Fort Hood, Texas, hosted a Robotics Rodeo to see what’s hot in the world of unmanned automation. The focus of the Sept. 1-4 event was to give more than 30 different exhibitors a chance to display the latest in autonomous robotics, a capability that …

Hood hosts ‘Robotics Rodeo’ – Army Times
Sat, 05 Sep 2009 12:25:00 GMT

Companies showcase robots at Fort Hood Posted On: Friday, Sep. 4 …

By Matt Goodman FORT HOOD – They may cost millions to make, but when a robot deployed on the battlefield returns in pieces, it's hard for Lt. Col.
See all stories on this topic

Companies showcase robots at Fort Hood Posted On: Friday, Sep. 4
Killeen Daily Herald
Fri, 04 Sep 2009 10:17:27 GMT

Robots strut their stuff in military roundup


Despite the hundreds of military robots that show up in concept or as prototypes on company Web sites and corporate reports, humans still do the fighting on
See all stories on this topic

Robots strut their stuff in military roundup
Thu, 03 Sep 2009 13:48:19 GMT

John Deere goes olive-drab at Robotics Rodeo – CNET News


John Deere's R-Gator autonomous utility vehicle in the back country at Fort Hood, Texas. (Credit: Mark Rutherford/CNET) FORT HOOD, Texas– John Deere , a household name in the Lone Star state, is hoping the brand will carry over into the market for …

John Deere goes olive-drab at Robotics Rodeo – CNET News
Wed, 02 Sep 2009 16:39:00 GMT

 iRobot Receives Order from the US Army for $35.3 Million

One of the robot’s strengths is its adaptability. It is well-suited for use by combat engineers, route clearance companies and infantry brigades.
See all stories on this topic

iRobot Receives Order from the US Army for $35.3 Million
Tue, 01 Sep 2009 13:18:21 GMT

Robots invading Fort Hood (Killeen Daily Herald)

FORT HOOD – The first-ever "Robotics Rodeo," which aims to encourage the development of autonomous systems in support of the nation's warfighters, is drawing the world's leading robotic designers and builders to the Texas-based event this week.

Robots invading Fort Hood (Killeen Daily Herald)
Mon, 31 Aug 2009 13:44:01 GMT

iRobot Ember Ushers in Era of Military Microbots

Check out the following article from Robot Stock News on a new small and potentially disposable robot for use by the military.  This continues the development of military robots that will be partners with soldiers on the battlefield.  An excerpt from the article follows below and there is a link to the full article at the bottom of the page.

iRobot Corp. has developed a new microbot for military applications — the paperback-sized iRobot Ember!  This hot new bot, still in the prototype stage, is featured on iRobot's new Facebook page for its PackBot family. As you can tell from the photos iRobot posted on the page, Ember resembles a miniaturized PackBot, complete with iRobot's flipper technology allowing it to right itself and climb over obstacles.

The iRobot Ember was developed under DARPA's LANdroids program, which is intended to create teams of tiny robots for military applications, including, as the name implies, setting up an ad-hoc network of hotspots. The robots are intended to be about 1 pound each, be smart enough to detect and navigate around obstacles and ultimately cheap enough to be considered disposable.

 iRobot Ember Ushers in Era of Military Microbots
thorn_stevens (noreply@blogger.com)
Sun, 17 May 2009 11:36:00 GMT

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