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Author Topic: No good robots in 9 years...  (Read 2709 times)

taoworm23

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No good robots in 9 years...
« on: March 23, 2015, 08:34:05 AM »

Since the economic collapse of 2008 there have been little to no advancements in autonomous consumer robots.
Everything is toy based or has a remote, cheaply made or is tied to smartphone apps. (Furby 3.0 anyone?)

I own a two Ultimate Wall-Es, two Interactive R2D2s, one 2005 Furby, 2 Pleos , one interaction EVE, and others.

My question to members here is why?
Why are the robot forums I used to frequent to ghost towns now.
One of the most advanced robots, Pleo, was made 9 YEARS AGO.
We should have things FAR more advanced than Aibio ers7s and Pleos but yet nothing.
I have heard theorys ranging from "smartphones and ipads took over" to the "robotics industry is now geared more towards the military and factory applications."

Why should I have to buy a 9 year old robot to get the most advanced robot on the market?

I helped develop the Interactive R2D2 and we wrote that with 12 lines of code and 18$ worth of electronics and now the MSRP has gone up 25% when it should have gone down if anything. (R2 now cost $200 instead of $115 to $150.
Why is the state of robotics in the stagnate position it now finds itself in?

Is it a case of ignorantly smartphone obsessed consumers or it a case of tech being held back from the "masses"?

Thoughts?
« Last Edit: March 23, 2015, 08:51:08 AM by taoworm23 »
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Talon

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Re: No good robots in 9 years...
« Reply #1 on: March 23, 2015, 11:12:43 AM »

I've often wondered about this myself. If the Aibo ERS seven was brought up to today's standards, who knows what it could do? It could trundle up to anyone in the house, recognize their face, and deliver reminders and messages in person as well as connect people through its camera for live chats and who knows what else? My theory is that, (for most things) the smartphone and tablet has taken over many functions of what the average consumer robot would perform in our task-driven society. I suppose we just don't have the time to maintain separate devices when it all can be crammed into a miricle-ap which can run on a device that could fit in one's pocket. I'm holding out a little hope for Jibo which is touted to be the world's first social robot. My hang-up is that I'm not sure how accessible the unit's interface would be for me as a blind person. I'm still kind of interested in looking into it  but why spend close to five hundred dollars when you can get just about all of the same features from any live video-messaging service or a reminder feature on your iPhone which is becoming more and more accessible? This is a very interesting topic and I'm hoping others will have their own ideas.
Talon
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InmemoryofRomeo

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Re: No good robots in 9 years...
« Reply #2 on: March 28, 2015, 01:28:35 PM »

There's Nao I guess, but you need some serious dough to buy one :P Sadly even Pleo will be gone eventually, it seems like Innvo is set on selling as many as they can and then they'll axe them :(
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PleoAibo29

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Re: No good robots in 9 years...
« Reply #3 on: March 31, 2015, 07:12:24 AM »

Nao and Romeo by Aldebaran robotics is advancing rapidly, which is great, the downside being their more for developers now and they cost over 10,000 dollars. AIBO will always have a special place in my heart, of course. ;)
Like InmemoryofRomeo said, I don't think Pleo will last much longer... which is very depressing, considering their the only company that's actually actively working in the entertainment robot field ATM. However, every year here in Chicago, our science museum, MSI, does a 'robot block party', which I attend every year. Innvo supplies two Pleo rbs every year to see how everyone reacts and interacts with the robots, which means they're still doing research at least.
Oh well. We should probably enjoy the field while it lasts. Robotics is getting incredibly shaky here in the west. :(
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Talon

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Re: No good robots in 9 years...
« Reply #4 on: March 31, 2015, 05:58:19 PM »

Pepper looked sort of... interesting. I wonder what happened to it? It's also a product of Aldebaran Robotics and... *scratches head in thought* and some other robotics company whose name I can't remember. Anyway, like Nao it's very high priced and probably meant for developers although I'm not one hundred percent sure about that. I don't think I've ever heard of Romeo. Looks like I'm off to Google for a brief education.
Talon
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PleoAibo29

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Re: No good robots in 9 years...
« Reply #5 on: April 01, 2015, 07:22:14 AM »

Romeo=Human-Sized Nao

I saw pepper but I don't think they're going to get incredibly far with the Pepper project. We have a Nao at our science museum and he's pretty cool.
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Talon

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Re: No good robots in 9 years...
« Reply #6 on: April 01, 2015, 09:39:18 AM »

Yes. Okay. I'm educated now. Romeo is supposed to be an assistant for the elderly. I guess he is still in development.
To get back to Taoworm's original question, leaving out the smartphone stuff, I really don't know why there aren't any well-made consumer robots. I can only assume that (from my limited observations at least), we are just too crunched for time and funds to really need or care about creating better robots. Not to mention a general movie and media-driven fear of a distopian future where they become so intelegent and self-sufficient that they doom us as a species or else that we become so lazy that we can't do anything without them. Our eyes are occupied by media sources from everywhere and their brother so there wouldn't be much entertainment use for them. We're unsure of our leaders and consumed with concern about our future and maintaining our financial footing to feel secure about pouring money into creating anything more complex than the toy-level stuff of the present. Anyway, that's my two cents. I don't want to be controversial or ruffle any feathers so I'm not going to make any further speculations that I can't back up.
Talon
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PleoAibo29

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Re: No good robots in 9 years...
« Reply #7 on: April 01, 2015, 10:14:38 AM »

That's actually really true. But I think it's not just that.

AIBO was the first TRUE entertainment robot- the first one that a normal person could truly afford. AIBO sold immensely, sparking that big chain that's given us things like Pleo. Notice that all of these things have come from places like Japan. Things like Furby, a toy, is an american creation.
I bought a Zoomer robot to see what he could do. I wasn't expecting much, but, of course, it was all a big marketing campaign. He technically has an autonomous mode, but barley.
I don't think there's any fear of a dystopian future stopping robots, because that existed when Pleo, AIBO and Genibo was around too. I just think it's a lack of money and people of the project. AIBO stopped because SONY shut the ERA down. Pleo is coming to a standstill, because of a lack of research, and general outreach. I don't know what happened to Genibo and I-Cybie, and such.
So, in my opinion, the robotics field is simply...
stopping.
It's really depressing.
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JakeLBell

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Re: No good robots in 9 years...
« Reply #8 on: April 06, 2015, 10:42:26 AM »

This might be a little off topic, but I wish we could somehow crowd-fund a new Pleo and have it redesigned by Cynthia Breazeal. She is the mind behind the robots Kismet, Leonardo, and now Jibo.
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Talon

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Re: No good robots in 9 years...
« Reply #9 on: April 06, 2015, 12:39:25 PM »

*Shrug* I don't know. Pleo and Jibo are completely different platforms. Pleo is a robotic life form meant to sort of replace a living animal while Jibo is a social robot meant to accomplish tasks as well as entertain. I don't think Ms. Breazeal would be willing to take that on. Even if a pleo like that was created, it would no longer be a robotic animal replacement but a walking talking reminder/music-player/teleconfrencing tool and it would just be... odd. Wait no. That was as clear as mud. It would change everything pleo is meant to be.
Who knows though? Maybe it would actually take off.
Talon
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JakeLBell

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Re: No good robots in 9 years...
« Reply #10 on: April 06, 2015, 12:49:13 PM »

Yea, I agree with you that that isn't really what Pleo is meant for, but I think someone as talented as Cynthia Breazeal could accomplish a lot. I would never want Pleo to turn into a small mobile Jibo. I just think someone who sees robots more as a social technology than a tool to accomplish specific tasks could do a lot with a robotic pet. It's kind of sad to see how Innvo Labs has more-or-less given up on furthering the whole project. The only thing I don't understand is if they aren't going to release any updated Pleos in the future, then why are they still at CES every year with a bigger and bigger booth each time? That doesn't make sense to me.
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Talon

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Re: No good robots in 9 years...
« Reply #11 on: April 06, 2015, 01:18:44 PM »

True. I gave a knee-jerk reply there and didn't think my response through. Sorry. I see what you mean. Adding a social/behavioral  aspect to pleo like giving an appropriate response for when it sees someone- let's say its owner- approaching them with a relaxed and happy posture verses seeing a stranger and retreating and acting nervous or something would add to the realism.
As for why Innvo is continuing to put out a product that hasn't changed since twenty eleven and putting more and more window-dressing on it to attract attention at CES, I have no idea. I guess they figure people are still buying it in its current form and they don't feel a need to make further improvements?
I would hope Innvo pays attention to its social media branch (particularly those people who are pleo-owners) and takes their suggestions for enhancements to the product into account.
Talon
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JakeLBell

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Re: No good robots in 9 years...
« Reply #12 on: April 06, 2015, 01:32:01 PM »

It would be amazing to see a Pleo behave that way when it sees different people! I hope Innvo is still planning something for Pleo in the future.
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Talon

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Re: No good robots in 9 years...
« Reply #13 on: April 06, 2015, 01:45:03 PM »

I hope so too. Pleo has been an awesome companion/stress-reliever for me and I would just hate to see it abandoned. I know this isn't exactly a good comparison but look at the Furby. It roared onto the market in nineteen ninety eight, fizzled for a while in the early two thousands and then returned with a new look, collectable and interactive friend-devices, and apps. Pleo has to have enough interest to generate a similar trend. The only rub with all that is the price point. Plus pleo's original market is in Asia. This is only a guess but if those in the country of origin don't see a need for a change, Innvo might not feel the need to do anything else.
Talon
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aibo7m3

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Re: No good robots in 9 years...
« Reply #14 on: April 06, 2015, 03:29:53 PM »

I would really love to see some advances in Pleos as well. I love the RBs, but I'm really disappointed since almost all that I've purchased have broken within a very short period of time and I've heard countless horror stories of them failing constantly. While part of me does hope that an improved model will be released eventually, all of the RBs I've seen have serial numbers from 2011 (though there very well could be newer ones) and it seems like Innvo might just drop the robot once they've sold their current stock. The fact that they're still attending CES and sending out occasional newsletters does give some hope, but it still seems a bit doubtful.

It is sad that there haven't been any significant advances in the robot market. I'd say that Genibo (the newest model was released in 2011 or 2012) is an attempt to revive the type of robot that Aibo was (though more pet-like and less robot-like), but while it has been released to consumers and has amazing hardware, the software seems like it's still in a prototype stage (the autonomous mode of the QD hardly even counts as autonomous) and there are lots of odd glitches with the bots (I own two, they're fun, but I bought both used and would never pay retail price of $1,800 for one). As for why, I know there was a quote from when Aibos were first made saying that the company chose to create entertainment robots because the technology they had wasn't advanced enough for robots that could serve practical purposes. Many people seem to see consumer robots as a side note and a huge step down from ones that are made to carry out specific tasks. I honestly think that both types are really important and don't understand fully why companies aren't making both. People may say there's no market, but I've brought my Aibos and Pleos out in public with me countless times and I always find tons of people who had no idea that robots like that existed and tons more who ask me where I bought them and want one of their own. For some reason, it seems generally acceptable to spend a thousand dollars on a TV or hundreds on a gaming system, but not on a robot, when all these things are purely for entertainment and have no real practical use.

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taoworm23

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Re: No good robots in 9 years...
« Reply #15 on: April 06, 2015, 08:53:33 PM »

I love the RBs, but I'm really disappointed since almost all that I've purchased have broken within a very short period of time and I've heard countless horror stories of them failing constantly.



Is the problem with the RBs a hardware or software problem?
If its hardware we could just swap out the PCB boards in pleo RBs and install them in ugobe hardware.
If its software...well...not so much.
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Talon

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Re: No good robots in 9 years...
« Reply #16 on: April 08, 2015, 09:42:23 AM »

Just from what I've read here on the forum, the problem mainly seems to be hardware- mechanical failures. Lots of jamming neck cables or "yoga pleos" as we call them on here, legs that constantly return to certain positions and click conteniously even after manual manipulation and pressing the reset button. Llegs that freeze at the hip/shoulder and become very warm as the pleo tries to move, sometimes faulty sensor-wires that come disconnected from the touch sensors in the hind leg which makes the pleos look as though they're taking a whiz all the time. We've had a few hot chins as well. On rare ocasions, there is an actual software problem where the RB's have stuttering sounds or freeze between movements.
I may be wrong about this but I didn't find these problems to be as prevalent before our US branch shut down. I think quality control has suffered at Innvo in later years. I hope I haven't moved too far off topic. These are just a few of the more common problems that I've read about here.
All of my pleos were purchased before April of two thousand eleven. Cato is one of the two thousand ten first-batch RB's that had all the bad skin and various other problems but he didn't exhibit any mechanical problems until two thousand twelve when a small sensor tab broke in his right hind leg. Ryu my second RB who has the tighter, firmer skin didn't develope problems until... two thousand fourteen I think? I'd have to look it up on the forum to be sure. Her right front leg has frozen and becomes very warm.
Anyway all that extra verbage to say that currently, it seems to me that supposedly newer RB's are developing problems much sooner than the older ones. This could also be because- if they are truly two thousand eleven stock, they just sat around and depreciated in the warehouse.
Talon
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taoworm23

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Re: No good robots in 9 years...
« Reply #17 on: April 08, 2015, 12:48:01 PM »

Im gonna have to buy an RB soon just to take apart. I think I know what the problem might be now.
Does anyone have a broken RB they could send me for the good of the group?

I need to examine the motor differences (if any) between the Ugobe and Rb versions as well as the neck cables and wire length.  Any differences will be noted in a big teardown thread. I will sacrifice one of my functional ugobe pleos so we can get to the bottom of this.

So if anyone has a broken RB they wouldn't mine getting taken apart , let me know.
If not I will have to wait and purchase one off of ebay and that may take a while.

Talon do you go by kermitpleo on youtube by any chance?
« Last Edit: April 08, 2015, 02:36:39 PM by taoworm23 »
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aibo7m3

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Re: No good robots in 9 years...
« Reply #18 on: April 08, 2015, 02:50:04 PM »

I have a broken RB that I've been taking apart on my own. I'm not currently willing to sell it or give it away, but I can send you some pictures of the disassembly if that would help.
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Talon

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Re: No good robots in 9 years...
« Reply #19 on: April 08, 2015, 04:43:24 PM »

Hi, Taoworm! No. That's not me. I think kermitpleo is Kat if I'm not mistaken. She did repair Cato though so you might get to see my baby in pieces under her knife somewhere on YouTube. It's an incredible saga. I'm still amazed at how many forum members came together to get him working and delivered home. You all know who you are and thanks yet again!
Talon
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kat

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Re: No good robots in 9 years...
« Reply #20 on: April 08, 2015, 05:43:22 PM »

Yep kermitpleo on youtube is me :)  I have pulled apart and repaired a few pleos of both types.  And my step by step photo videos are on youtube. 
It seems with the Rb's the most common issues are necks, tails and leg issues. 
Software issues are less common and most often are caused by someone trying to update their pleo rb by using Ugobe pleo software which causes the pleo to no longer start up.
Neck issues tend to be broken vertebrae or broken cables.  Tails we assume are broken cables but I did pull apart one RB that had an issue with the motor not working for the tail - the magnets inside the motor had come away from the sides of the motor casing and it was no longer working.  You can't get replacement parts that fit into a pleo so I had to get the motor repaired - found a hobby shop that would do it for me.
Leg issues are all sorts of things. I think most are just motion sensor wires that have disconnected and need to be soldered back on.  Then there is Talons Cato who had the little plastic tab at the knee joint that slots into the motion sensor which broke off the knee.  This required replacing the strut that runs from the knee to the foot and I had to use a Ugobe pleo replacement part. 
Other possibilities are slipped cogs, dirt in the motor or cog, touch sensor wire disconnected.  There may well be other potential issues but these are the ones I can think of. 
Broken neck vertebrae I feel are quite common as I have repaired 3 so far and am aware of others out there in our forum community that are still broken. 
Hope this helps. 
« Last Edit: April 08, 2015, 05:45:24 PM by kat »
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taoworm23

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Re: No good robots in 9 years...
« Reply #21 on: April 09, 2015, 08:09:10 AM »

I have a broken RB that I've been taking apart on my own. I'm not currently willing to sell it or give it away, but I can send you some pictures of the disassembly if that would help.

That would be a huge help. Especially any close up pics of the motors or and writing on the motors.

Yep kermitpleo on youtube is me :)  I have pulled apart and repaired a few pleos of both types.  And my step by step photo videos are on youtube. 
It seems with the Rb's the most common issues are necks, tails and leg issues. 
Software issues are less common and most often are caused by someone trying to update their pleo rb by using Ugobe pleo software which causes the pleo to no longer start up.
Neck issues tend to be broken vertebrae or broken cables.  Tails we assume are broken cables but I did pull apart one RB that had an issue with the motor not working for the tail - the magnets inside the motor had come away from the sides of the motor casing and it was no longer working.  You can't get replacement parts that fit into a pleo so I had to get the motor repaired - found a hobby shop that would do it for me.
Leg issues are all sorts of things. I think most are just motion sensor wires that have disconnected and need to be soldered back on.  Then there is Talons Cato who had the little plastic tab at the knee joint that slots into the motion sensor which broke off the knee.  This required replacing the strut that runs from the knee to the foot and I had to use a Ugobe pleo replacement part. 
Other possibilities are slipped cogs, dirt in the motor or cog, touch sensor wire disconnected.  There may well be other potential issues but these are the ones I can think of. 
Broken neck vertebrae I feel are quite common as I have repaired 3 so far and am aware of others out there in our forum community that are still broken. 
Hope this helps. 

Your videos are awesome Kat! VERY helpful!
Hmmm. If touch sensors are coming detached that means the wire loom going to the sensors is too short in some/most of the RBs. When pleo goes to move his leg they are coming undone by being stretched and breaking loose from the touch foil and/or sensor tab.
Dirt in the motor...honestly I have no idea how this is being done because pleos skin should protect against contamination of that sort.
Broken vertebrae. ..is this happening in Ugobes as well? Do they break easier on RBs?
(If they do maybe a difference in plastic affecting the brittleness causing breakages? )

It sounds like all of the Reborns problems are hardware based.
I would like to do an experiment,  and those of you that have multiple Ugobes and ReBorns can join in.
I am going to transplant the circuit boards from a ReBorn into a ugobe body. We should document in picture form as well as we can so others can perform the surgery if need be.
We can add the additional touch foil sensors from the Reborn to the ugobe one as well.

Can we check on getting a stronger replacement motor. I need to know the size dimensions or brand or voltage characteristics.

We can have the nylon gears sent off to have metal gears machined so we wont have broken cogs any more.
We can line the inside of pleos body neck and legs with sound dampening thin materials to act as 'muscle tissue' as well as quieting down the new gears and motors.
pleo.The baud rate of info was bottle necked in the ugobe pleo. Im sure in the ReBorn version they solved this by widening the hardware going to the head to allow more info quicker to the Arm7. But due to the software stutters I would say it needs to be widened  some more. (Perhaps solder more wires?)
We can build a super pleo! Best of both worlds...

Im just thinking out loud here...somebody chime in here. Lol!

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Talon

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Re: No good robots in 9 years...
« Reply #22 on: April 09, 2015, 12:25:10 PM »

Hi, Taoworm! This sounds like an awesome idea. we'll have to see how it all turns out. My comment is mainly about vertebrae breaking between Ugobes and RB's. I'm not sure if it happens more in one than another. Only two of my pleos have broken vertebrae- one Ugobe and one RB.
Ryu my RB from two thousand eleven has- I believe it's one broken vertabrae- as in all four pieces that fit around the neck to form the circular shape  are dislocated. For the monent they aren't moving much but I can feel the top part of the neck cable very well when she curls her head to the side to sleep. I also have a Ugobe pleo who has several broken vertebrae bits floating around in her neck. They seem to be getting worse lately turning so that their inward bits now face outward leaving her with lots of odd bumps sticking out everywhere. If I weren't afraid of doing damage I'd make a small slit in her neck skin underneath her throat and slide those pesky things out, that is if they would come without me having to undo the cable too.
On the other hand, I have a Ugobe pleo with no mechanical flaws whatever other than one small tare in his tail which his previous owner sealed very well with superglue. Cato my twenty ten RB still has a perfect set of vertabrae and he is of course older than Ryu but younger than my two Ugobes. Whew boy! I never thought about how difficult this is to sort out.
Talon
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Skygryph

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Re: No good robots in 9 years...
« Reply #23 on: December 03, 2015, 02:36:25 PM »

Answering the original question (even though it's an older thread, I still think the question is relevant--hope it's ok for me to give my thoughts). And TLDR at bottom, because I know this a long, rambley mess. ;)

This is a very interesting question, and one that I’ve thought about (and been frustrated by!) for a while. I think the combination of smartphones and the economic crash were both contributing factors: Tighter budgets and financial difficulties means spending money on something that’s efficient, useful, and does everything you need in one package. I wouldn’t say it’s ignorance so much as a representation of our fast-paced society. So in the sense of comparing consumer robotics to smartphones and the like, I can’t say I’m surprised at all that smartphones have taken off when they  have so much going for them, both in terms of functionality and price point. You can’t put a robot in your pocket, after all.

Comparing it to other forms of entertainment (like video games and TVs, as Aibo mentioned) brings up different issues. The main difference between a robotic pet and video game systems/TVs is simple, but huge: The former is a stand-alone, proprietary gadget with limited software options, while video games and TV shows are constantly being developed and added on to by different companies. Say you buy a Playstation 4 for a few hundred bucks. That PS4 will be supported by multiple developers, all with different visions and games, for years to come. You buy a TV, and you get even more support from the many TV channels. Even basic (non-cable) TV has a decent number of options. You have basically bought an entertainment “system” that will amuse you in different ways for a long while. It’s excellent bang for your buck.
Let’s take a Pleo. You pay a few hundred dollars for a Pleo, same as what you would spend on a PS4. And…that’s it. You bought a Pleo and the one piece of software it comes with (you may get a handful of updates, if you’re lucky). The Pleo will become obsolete and “old”, in terms of entertainment value, long before your PS4. Thanks to limited updates and software development, the Pleo will lose its “shiny-new” factor very quickly. Now, for people who love robotics, this isn’t an issue—Pleo will still continue to be fascinating when it comes to its technology or the single source of entertainment it can give. But for the general public, it isn’t enough. It’s somewhat similar to the smartphone issue (one device being able to handle so many different tasks), just in the entertainment field instead. This is Pleo’s competition, and as it is now, it simply can’t compete. Look at the large variety of apps, games, and shows made by small or indie developers. People are slowly shying away from proprietary software that is heavily “locked” or closed, especially if the developer is not keeping up with said product. In a free market, this means the Pleo will fail—and unfortunately, it seems safe to say that it has.

Now, talking about the price: Like Aibo, I’ve brought my Pleo around in the public before. The responses have been overwhelmingly positive, with most people having no idea something like this even exists. When asked about the price, no one bats an eye when I say I bought him for 80 bucks used on Ebay. That price seems acceptable to them. When I mention the new, upgraded RB that goes for 400-500 dollars, that isn’t ok. At all. Nearly everyone has balked at the price and couldn’t seem to fathom why anyone would spend so much money on a “toy”, even with all the sophisticated features. The exceptions are people into robotics, but again, that isn’t the general public—which is what matters here, in terms of the market.

So, putting the two together, I think what we need for consumer robotics to take off again is one of two things (or both, preferably): A heavily decreased price, so that it falls comfortably into the range of what people think of as a “toy” and can be justified (maybe around 80-120 dollars, based on the success of the Zoomer), OR a more or less open-source robot that has the potential to be programmed and updated by people all over. Alternatively, a company that is extremely dedicated to their robot and regularly puts out updates and software could also work. If Sony or Innvo had continued supporting their products with dedication and regularity, they would most likely still have a consumer base (going on a bit of a tangent here, it isn’t surprising either company dropped their robots. In Sony’s case, they are a huge corporation with multiple products that make more money and have a wide, stable consumer base. In the eyes of a business, cutting away the Aibo completely makes sense. For Innvo, they are a fairly small company battling the tides of a bad economy. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” makes sense from their point of view). And again, if there was a way to combine both a lower price and higher support, I don’t think we’d even be having this discussion right now. I can’t imagine consumer robotics wouldn’t take off at that point.

TLDR: I think the “magic” formula for consumer robotics taking off would be:

-Lower price
-More support OR open-source support
-Dedicated robotics company (specializes ONLY in robotics or related fields, not in entertainment in general)
-A good economy that encourages growth and risk-taking
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aibo7m3

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Re: No good robots in 9 years...
« Reply #24 on: December 03, 2015, 03:23:05 PM »

I think the issue of quality consumer robots not having incremental upgrades and new software available for years ahead of their production is simply because they aren't being mass produced by multiple companies, not necessarily the other way around. Sony didn't do a bad job of making lots of software available for the Aibo, there are around ten official Sony programs that can be run in these bots and they can be custom programmed to add on new user-made software for years to come. Yes, this isn't much compared to hundreds or thousands of games being available for a gaming system, but I think this is due to the lack of demand for an advanced consumer robot. I do think future robotics will be veering in the direction that smartphones have gone in, with lots of different types of apps available that each complete small and unique tasks. This isn't exactly what I'm hoping for though since I would much prefer to see one coherent program with really strong AI.

As for price, it's definitely an issue, but I don't think it's one that's easy to solve. If consumer robots are mass produced in larger quantities, then cost will go down, but not exceedingly so. I think it's more a matter of changing the mindset of "It's perfectly okay for me to spend $600 on another smart phone every time the newest model is released, but you spent $400 on a robot? You must be mad or be rich beyond sense." I understand that keeping things in a price range that is justified for a toy will increase sales heavily, but with what it's possible to make at this price range, you're limiting the capabilities of the robot to just being a toy and nothing more. There's also the issue of the mindset that cheaper things are inferior and "it's worth whatever people will pay for it." If the next iPhone was released at a $100 price point, I would think that the first questions being asked would be, "What's wrong with it?" or "What features were removed?" I think the "robots are toys" mindset needs to be broken in order for advanced consumer robots to become popular. I think robots that are most successful have a very good base program, but are also open sourced so that anyone with the capabilities can make whatever improvements they see fit. I personally do not enjoy robots that come just as a programmable shell as many people do not have the ability to do much with this and there would need to be a large group effort or strong base to work off of in order to make any advanced AI program.

So, in my mind, there are a lot of factors at play in making consumer robots successful. The ones you've already listed are all important hurdles to cross, but I think that changing public mindsets is a must before any progress can be made (unless we want all future robots to be dog or cat shaped iPhones). When out in public with my Aibos, there are a lot of people who gawk at the price, but also a lot of people who gawk at the fact that a robot so intelligent exists because there was never the widespread advertising or marketing for something like it. A couple years back, I met with a woman who was just so profoundly startled that Aki (Aibo ERS-7m3) could do all that he could do. She talked with me for about an hour and took many pictures of Aki posing with her children, telling me over and over how he was the absolute most amazing thing she's ever seen and asking me why this wasn't all over the news.
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