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back to article Robot builders hunt for a killer application

Right now, commercial robot builders are planning to invade our homes with their mechanical creations. But first they'll need us to invite them in. "Robotics today is comparable to computers in the '70s," appears to be a popular mantra for the developers' market space enthusiasm. The analogy has already popped up several times …

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Anonymous Coward

They need compelling applications?

like a killer app? Why don't they just merge with Oerlikon who already has a proven track of killer applications? (http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/10/26/robo_developer_state_of_the_market/)

I'll get my - you know

EAfH

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Thumb Down

Don't relly see it

I don't see a general purpose home robot making a breakthrough. I mean, some tasks could be robotised, like Roomba has done for cleaning.

Same vein would be a robot lawn mower or robot floor polisher to offices. But as with all robots that could be even remotely usefull, they would be just lawn mower with chip-for-brain or polisher humming along all by itself, when office is empty. They wouldn't really look anything remotely human and most certainly wouldn't look like the things on those trade shows.

I don't really understand, why these developers even want human interaction. Spreadsheets and word prosessing were invented for a pragmatic reason, but it is hard to see, how to make money from a robot that throws ball.

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Bronze badge
Happy

"You have 40 seconds to comply"

Is anyone else imagining Bill Gates standing on stage, with a huge killer deathbot-gone-wrong like the classic scene in RoboCop?

Gives a whole new meaning to "Blue Screen Of Death".

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Coat

We need a RotM icon!

..., and I can fully understand that a Microsoft guy doesn't want to talk about 'killer applications' in the context of robotics. When you have Windoes-controlled robots handling physical objects, 'Blue Screen of Death' may get a whole new meaning!

Coat, etc. ...

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Human Interaction...

Finn, quite so!

We don't want robots that wander around our houses knocking vases over, stepping on the family dog and cheerily reading our email - we want things like Roomba, but better.

The sales pitch needs to be more along the lines of 'you pay us £800 for a robot that you'll never see again - but you'll also never have clean your floors or mow the lawn again'.

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It's all there in the title

hiding in plain view. Those boffins should just read El Reg more closely.

Robot, my coat please. (Got to be pleasant to these things else they might suddenly turn vicious at an unexpecte

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Coat

Trower said...

"Microsoft is particularly interested in robots assisting the elderly"

You have 15 minutes to comply!

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Make something useful!

Sure robotics is where computers were in the 70s. They're big clunky things, expensive, high maintenance, and suitable only for use on simple pre-programmed tasks (and requiring heavy-duty programming to do those tasks).

What made home computers happen? They became small, relatively cheap, relatively powerful, and most importantly versatile enough to provide several applications that people really needed in one box: mainly spreadsheets and word processors. Games were a big part later, but they'd never have happened if there wasn't an established market for home computers already - and when games did become a major player in home computing, it was because they came up with innovative ideas for how to play games (or copied those ideas from arcade games).

So until robots are small, relatively cheap, relatively powerful and versatile, they're never going to have any significant impact. At the moment, they're large, heavy, expensive, weak and unable to do anything useful. And most of what robotics places call "robots" are just funky versions of a remote-control car. (You say you can control that robot's fingers with your fingers? And it's using remote-control servos and a radio link? Just like the £10 kiddy toy I got as a present 25 years ago? Wow dude, that sure is progress!)

The only robot to do anything useful to date is the Roomba, and that's more like the robot equivalent of the electronic calculator than the computer. Still, it's a start, but if the robotics industry wants to go mainstream then it needs more focus on what people actually need and how to achieve it, instead of yet another robot head or remote-control buggy.

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Stop

That's not baseball!

That's jai-alai.

It makes quite a difference in the way the ball is grasped (not at all in jai-alai) and released.

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@Finn

Actually, robotic lawn mowers and floor polishers already exist, and are commercially available. Also robotic inventory managers which fetch, store, organize and sort all manner of material in huge automated warehouses.

The trouble is that the trade show types are mostly marketing idiots, and don't understand what the real needs are, and underestimate their audience. People want things that work, not anthropomorphic novelties. Instead, people want unpleasant, repetitive, and menial tasks automoated. Show me a robot that'll scrub my bathroom for me, and I'll own it immediately.

Left to engineers and geeks, robots will quietly continue their slow inflitration of society, doing things people actually want done.

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Alert

killer app is replacement of people

The killer app for home robots is the replacement of people. I'd buy a robot that did my chores for me. But it'd have to be tall enough and flexible enough to dust cobwebs off the ceiling and bend over to clean the toilet. It'd have to recognize dirt and understand where the papers went. It'd basically have to be as smart as I am, and sensitive to my needs. This sounds more like a wife than a vacuum cleaner.

Such a device would replace human beings in many activities. That sounds good until you ask, "What will the replaced humans do to make food money?" That's when you realize that a really decent household robot is your worst nightmare. It wants to do your job. It wants your salary. And it works tirelessly, without complaining, for any boss no matter how petty or stupid. I don't want to compete with that.

A really decent household robot would be the end of mankind, without even having to exterminate us. We'd just starve out, or fight a bitter and destructive war against the robot owners. Isn't anybody else worried about this?

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Anonymous Coward

The trouble is

the marketing idiots want their 15 mins of fame. They'll say anything to get on the BBC or El Reg. "Robot oil to cure all known diseases, just as soon as we can find it." "Robots to discover life on Mars". Well, there isn't any of interest, unless amanfromMars is communicating by writing directly into our screen buffers from 100 million miles away.

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Paris Hilton

Killer App already found

Old news; Lester Haines has already covered this.

The "Killer App" for robotics is --- of course:

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2005/04/22/android_begats_armageddon_machine/

(I have selected the terrifying image of one of the Lizard Army's cyber drones.)

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@Kurt

Not necessarily replacing people, any more than dishwashers and washing machines replaced people. If robots are going to find their way into houses, they need to be doing time-consuming chores which people would otherwise have to do themselves, thereby creating more free time for people. As mentioned above, that's trimming the hedge, washing the toilet, etc..

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Bronze badge
Alert

there's only three killer apps

Gaming, Shopping and Porn.

Find a way to make robots essential to these instant gratification activities and you're all set.

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Happy

The real killer apps

Make a robot that's agile and smart enough to fetch a beer from the fridge, and not bring a jar of mayonaise instead, and men will buy it in droves.

Make it spend its spare time wandering the house, picking up clothes, putting them in the hamper, and picking up trash and putting it in the trashcan (And NOT confusing the two!), and the housewives will insist their hubbys get one pronto!

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Anonymous Coward

sexbot cleanbot

Only two applications I know of that we need robots for and are they working on that probably not it's Microsloth after all I wouldn't trust a robot they made to do either of these things without breaking something forget it there is no future in consumer robotics as far as they're concerned.

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Joke

Microsoft IS Cyberdyne!

Prove me wrong! hehe

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