If you have ever hung out with cows, then you know that they are brighter than they look. They like to keep to their schedules, get milked when they are full, go home at the end of the day and be fed on time. So it is a good thing that Lely's Astronaut A4 is there for them. Each cow wears a collar and the Milkobot determines which one steps in to feed, her schedule and proceeds to milk her, all without the assistance of a human. The A4 releases one if it is too soon to milk and alerts the farmer if one has not shown up in a while.
About 180 cows can be serviced daily. The Dutch company's service bot has a 3D camera to keep an eye on the bovine being serviced, can analyze both the cow's condition and the milk, and will sing her a tune when she finishes her meal. Okay, maybe not that last part. But we say this $210,000 milker seems pretty cool and if a farmer pipes in some soothing tunes that will make for some very happy cows.
If Jeremy Robbins had his way, telepresence robots would be operated by disabled military and police veterans. Using bots designed for military applications, the U.S. Navy Reserve commander gave Florida International University $20,000 of his own money two IHMC custom bots to develop them with audio, video and sensory capability.
Patrolbot will be designed for high-density public spaces and as surveillance in hot spots like nuclear facilities. The eventual goal here is to make them affordable and put those back into the workforce who would not necessarily have that chance. All we can say is that the idea sounds fine, but they had better be built solidly or they risk getting knocked over in the first riot they come across.
Robosavvy is a company that is attempting to make HRIs more social. Their
SavvyBot is a software platform that, used in conjunction with a NAO, interacts with humans via search and social networking. The receptionbot addresses passers by and will friend the human via Facebook. It then offers a picture opportunity, analyzes Likes and makes comments about them, and perhaps dances to a fave tune. The software is available to those who are looking replace a human in such areas as reception and information.
The Human Support Robot is part of Toyota's plan to provide more home assistance to the planet. The HSR fetches, cleans up items from the floor or counter and can even handle curtains. The telescoping bot has a range of 2.7 - 4.3 feet and a single arm with a range of 2.7. Still in the prototype stage, the company says that Japanese public health insurance should cover 90% of its cost.
This is not yet more than a working prototype, and its creators are keeping pretty vague about details, however we always admire a good DIY bartender. The Arduino-powered Inebriator can mix one of 15 drinks autonomously. After the alcohol is dispensed, the glass moves to add mixers which are stored in bottles in a cooler beneath the table. The clever inventors are working on the next generation and would like to add an ice hopper and stirring mechanism.
Because Rodney A. Brooks believes that robots should be friendly to the max, he created Baxter. Meant for assembly line work, this Rethink Robotics adaptive bot will face its human coworker when his hand is touched. Baxter needs no special training and can compensate for error if a part is dropped or missing. He is definitely friendlier than other manufacturing bots but at a price of about $25,000, maybe the next generation could include some friendly chatter.
We thought this was going to be the Roomba of the farming community, but Blue River Technology is still working on a weeding bot. Instead of using pesticides, Lettuce Bot uses cameras, computer vision and algorithms to discern the vegetable from weeds and the claim is that they have 98 - 99% accuracy. It then spreads fertilizer down to kill the weeds.
The company has made two prototypes and the ultimate goal is to make an organic weeder which, now that they have funding from the National Science Foundation, will undoubtedly happen in the near future.
The time of the robot as a major police partner is certainly upon us. As an example, in West Bloomfield, MI, state police recently sent in six of them after a 20-hour standoff with Ricky Nelson Coley who had shot and killed Officer Patrick O'Rourke. Coley had barricaded himself inside his house with multiple firearms and knives. He shot at anything that tried to reach him on the second floor, including the robots.
A crane was sent in to tear into the room and it was discovered that the shooter had taken his own life. Still, it's a comfort to know that there are robot helpers during natural disasters, bomb threats and altercations involving standoffs where humans are in danger.
We have seen robotic gardeners before but this takes it to the point of almost complete automation in a 200,000 sq. ft. building in San Marcos, CA. Katsumi Shigeta, president and CEO of Hokto-Kinoko Co., purchased Kinoko, a mushroom exporting company that went out of business. Four kinds of shrooms are produced with the aid of robot arms and a climate controlled environment. There are over 120 humans to assist in minor roles.
After maturation, the organic crop is sold locally since exporting would mean spraying them with pesticides. Kudos to Shigeta for choosing a local distribution process instead. If you are not quite sure what to do with a king trumpet or brown beech mushroom, Hokto-Kinoko gladly provides recipes. And you have to dig the commercial, even if it's not in English.
Honda's latest robotic creation is a robotic lawnmower built for lucky Europeans. Using a random pattern, the Miimo can cut 2 - 3mm lengths. Three bump sensors help it to navigate around large objects and it has auto-speed adjustment for thicker grass patches. The lawnbot has a fan in its blade holder to suck in the loose cuttings. Running on a lithium-ion battery, Miimo will return to its charging station when needed. No price has been released but both the Miimo 300 and 500 will be available in 2013.