The "Readybot Challenge" team have released footage of their domestic robot, intended to demonstrate the feasibility of a home-help robot capable of performing up to 80-percent of routine chores. This current Readybot prototype - which resembles a dishwasher with a bin-lid dome and outstretched "hug me!" arms - can tidy up mess left on the floor, empty trash and, thanks to a flip-down garage at the back, release a Roomba robotic vacuum cleaner.
Check out the video of Readybot in action, after the cut!
Taking the DARPA concept as their starting point, the team have challenged themselves to come up with a prototype capable of 50-percent of the usual cleaning tasks by the end of the year, topping out at 80-percent in its final form. They're also claiming that, based on current progress, a "solid engineering and design team" could produce a shippable product in just two years.
Perhaps I've watched too many of those 50s "The Home of the Future!" clips, telling us that by the turn of the 21st century we'd all have robotic servants doing our bidding, but I can't take this thing seriously. If it works out, fantastic - I'd love one! - but I'm reserving the right to be dubious.
Readybot Kitchen-Cleaning Robot Takes on Family Room - With Help From Friendly Vacuum
PLEASANTON, Calif. --(Business Wire)-- Jun. 23, 2008 The Readybot Robot Challenge, a non-profit research group that earlier in the year released a video of their kitchen-cleaning robot prototype, announces a second video. This time Readybot cleans a family room full of toys and clutter. Video available at http://www.readybot.com or http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JtP1zFZM0Zo.
The Readybot prototype, which designers say "looks like a dishwasher, but with arms," is shown rolling into action. It uses a carpet rake attachment to scrape toys into plastic bins, moving sideways and diagonally to reach tight spots. It stores the bins in a cabinet, closes the door, and empties the trash. "As always, we're just showing a few key skills, to give viewers a feel for what robots can do," says Readybot Director Tom Benson. "We can think of ten new ideas, for every one that we have time to write into the application software."
In a surprise move, the video shows Readybot deploying one of the popular off-the-shelf cleaning robots, which scoots out to vacuum the carpet. Why didn't the Readybot team build their own? "Vacuum robots are inexpensive, extremely well engineered, and available anywhere," says Benson. "Why should we re-invent something that already works great?"
Benson explains how this fits their view of the future of robotics. "We believe the next and largest wave of the robotics industry will be similar to personal computers. With PCs, the disk drives, motherboards, and other components are made by different vendors and assembled into an easy-to-upgrade final product. This approach has led to fast growth and innovation in the PC market. We believe robots will be the same - robot arms, bases, video systems could be made by different vendors and plugged together. So it makes perfect sense to use an existing vacuum robot as a peripheral."
This echoes views of other articles in the press, including a June 2006 Scientific American article by Microsoft founder Bill Gates. "It's an international phenomenon," said Benson, "with researchers all over the world, including here in Silicon Valley, developing the technology. The challenge is to assemble that into a practical platform, and fill in a few missing pieces."
Readybot plans to announce "Phase II" of their robot challenge in the Fall of 2008.