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Friday, June 01, 2001

Coming Soon to Your Home: Blaze-Battling Robots
Anne Eisenberg New York Times Service
Friday, June 1, 2001

NEW YORK To Jacob Mendelssohn, an engineering professor at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, the smoke detector is a fine piece of technology. But it is a limited one - while it can tell if a fire has started, it cannot do anything to stop it.

For that, most people have to rely on a fire department. And that, Mr. Mendelssohn recalled thinking years ago, can be a problem. "I realized that my smoke alarm could go off, but by the time the firefighters arrived, my house could burn down," he said.

To address that problem, and because he has always loved robots, Mr. Mendelssohn came up with an idea: firefighting robots for the home. Since no such thing existed, he came up with another idea: a robot firefighting competition, open to designers of all ages. Robots would search for a fire, and the one that was the first to find and extinguish the flames would win.


Tuesday, May 29, 2001

SONY | SonyInfo | News | Press Release

To read SONY last press release, go there.

R2-D2, where are you? The robot's slow evolution
By Zillah Bahar

(IDG) -- Scientists have fantasized for decades about a future when robots will take over mundane household chores and give us more leisure time. Yet the types of robotic devices introduced to the market so far have typically been more about novel entertainment than practical uses.

But, the consumer market for robotics products appears to be in the process of changing for the better, though it's a slow transformation to be sure. Thanks to lower manufacturing costs and the improved performance of mass-produced computers, a number of small companies are starting to offer consumer robots that can clean and maintain a household. The problem, for the moment at least, is that these products aren't likely to attract consumers who aren't already jazzed about robots. So far as performance and price are concerned, they're still no match for their conventional counterparts.
Joe Engelberger, a pioneer in the U.S. robotics industry, believes that companies developing robots for the consumer market have been pursuing a flawed business strategy by offering single-function products that can be used for a few hours a week, at best. For a robotic device to be cost-effective, he says, it must be capable of doing many household chores so that it is useful around the clock.

Some experts believe these performance issues can be resolved within the decade. Engelberger even argues that a multitasking robot that can provide cleaning services and transport the frail elderly within the home could be market-ready in little more than two years, using existing technology. Unfortunately, so far as the ordinary consumer is concerned, the price of such high-precision robots won't be right for 25 years, Nourbakhsh contends.