Category Archives: Robotics

Amazon Abandons $1.4 Billion Deal To Buy Roomba Maker iRobot

Amazon’s deal to buy Roomba maker iRobot is off, the companies announced today, after iRobot said the deal has “no path to regulatory approval in the European Union.” iRobot is also announcing that it is laying off around 330 employees, or around 31 percent of its workforce as part of a restructuring. It expects to notify the majority of affected employees by the end of March, The Verge reported.

As part of the announcement, iRobot chair and CEO Colin Angle, who co-founded the company in 1990, is stepping down from both roles. iRobot’s current executive vice president and chief legal officer, Glen Weinstein, will serve as interim CEO, and Andrew Miller, formerly lead independent director of the board, will become chair.

As part of the restructuring, iRobot is pausing its work on devices outside of its core floor-cleaning product lineup like air purifies and lawn mowers, and closing offices and facilities in “smaller, underperforming geographies.”

The announcement comes after the $1.4 billion acquisition ran into difficulties with EU regulators. Last November, the European Commission said it believed the deal had the potential to restrict competition in the robot cleaner market. Many of iRobot’s competitors also sell their devices on Amazon’s online store, and regulators were concerned that Amazon would delist or reduce the visibility of rival robot vacuum cleaners, restricting competition and “leading to higher prices, lower quality, and less innovation for consumers.”

TechCrunch reported a year and a half after announcing its intention to acquire iRobot, Amazon’s deal is officially dead. All parties involved anticipated some level of regulatory scrutiny, but after a few decades of the company consolidation, few expected this much friction.

The deal had already passed through select international regulatory bodies, including the U.K. Ultimately, however the European Union’s recent clamping down on perceived anti-competitive M&As proved to be the final nail in the coffin.

“iRobot is an innovative pioneer with a clear vision to make consumer robots a reality,” Angle said in a release. “The termination of the agreement with Amazon is disappointing, but iRobot now turns toward the future with a focus and commitment to continue building thoughtful robots and intelligent home innovations that make life better, and that our customers around the world love.”

Mashable reported that Amazon will be fine after the termination of this deal. However, the same cannot be said for iRobot. When Amazon first announced its intention to acquire the Roomba-maker in August 2022, it was seen as somewhat of a bailout for iRobot.

Personally, I love our little Roomba cleaner, and am hoping it will continue working for a long time. That said, it is always sad when workers lose their jobs due to things beyond their control.

Starship Self-Driving Robots are Delivering Food

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many states to issue “stay at home” orders. People still need to eat. Many are placing food orders at local restaurants who send a driver out with their food. This could potentially put those drivers at risk of catching the virus.

Robots, however, face no such risk. A company called Starship has created small, self-driving, robots that have been making food deliveries for over two years.

Starship robots are self advanced devices that can carry items within a 4-mile (6km) radius. Our delivery platform enables a new era of instant delivery that works around your schedule at much lower costs.

Parcels, groceries, and food are directly delivered from stores, at the time that the customer requests via a mobile app. Once ordered the robots’ entire journey and location can be monitored on a smartphone.

According to Reuters, Starship robots in England have been delivering for free to the National Health Service (NHS) staff and facing increased demand from the general public. Starship Robots made their 50,000th delivery in Milton Keynes on April 15, 2020.

Ars Technica has a detailed article about Starship’s robots making deliveries in Farifax City, Virginia. Timothy B. Lee used the Starship app, placed an order, and then set out to find the robot. He decided to jump in front of it, to see what would happen. The robot simply stopped before it hit him.

Starship points out that the cargo bay on the robot is mechanically locked throughout the journey and can be opened by the recipient with their smartphone app. In other words, there is no reason to worry that someone else will be able to grab your delivery order before the robot finds your home. The company says their entire delivery platform is energy efficient and cost efficient, and can deliver groceries, packages, and food, at a fraction of the cost.

The robots are cute, too! They look like a small cooler on wheels, rolling across the sidewalk, on six fat wheels. It even has a little flagpole, with a colorful flag, so people will notice it.

Personally, I think these robots are useful. They can potentially keep restaurants in business as they make food for people who are stuck at home. Let the robot take the food to someone’s door, instead of a human that may be worried about the risk of encountering someone who has COVID-19. The only potential problem I see is if human delivery drivers end up replaced by self-driving delivery robots.

Robot Deployed at Texas Hotel to Zap Pathogens Amid Coronavirus Outbreak

The Westin Medical Center Hotel in Houston has become the first hotel in the country to use new ultraviolet light robots to combat germs and pathogens amid the coronavirus outbreak, and the company that makes the robot says interest in the technology is surging as the crisis escalates.

LightStrike Germ-Zapping Robots have been deployed to carry out part of the cleaning process for the hotel in what is now a more effective and quicker way to sanitize room after guests check out.

The technology used by the robot has previously only been seen in the medical healthcare field, but with the growing demand for disinfections due to coronavirus, the robots are being sent into hotels for the first time.

The robot uses an intense UV light to kill bacteria and SARA and MERS, other strains of the coronavirus family, down to the microscopic level. UV light can damage or destroy various types of pathogens and the destructive power of UV light depends on factor such as wavelength and the type of organism the rays are impacting, Melinda Hart, a spokesperson for Xenex Disinfection Services, the technology company that manufactures the robot, told AccuWeather.

Research has yet to be published showing that UV light has the same affect on SARS-CoV-2, the virus behind the COVID-19 outbreak. But some experts believe UV light, which primarily comes from the sun, could also kill the strain.

There may not be many people traveling these days, with all of the social distancing that’s in effect, but travelers who stay in rooms cleaned with the technology may be able to rest a little more easily.

The robot takes only two minutes to clean an area and can even kill certain strains of coronavirus, Dr. Sarah Simmons of Xenex told KTRK-TV. Hart said the robot uses new technology that creates intense germicidal light that can quickly deactivate viruses and spores. Older technology relied on the use of mercury bulbs, which don’t create as strong a UV light.

Misty Robotics Launches First Misty II Application for Concierge Use

Misty Robotics, the creators of the Misty II platform robot announced the launch of the Misty as a Concierge application template, which provides developers with a robust starting point to build robot skills and quickly put Misty II to work.

The Misty II application templates are open source code for developers to build upon and customize for a specific assignment or task. The Misty as a Concierge application template has utility in environments such as entertainment and sports venues, hotels, eldercare, retail, commercial real estate, museums, and more.

The Misty as a Concierge application template leverages her ability to detect humans in her presence, greet them, and interact with them to provide information and responses to their questions by integrating with third-party APIs such as FourSquare, etc. Developers can extend the utility of the concierge robot skill with other capabilities such as reservations, point of sale systems, call for assistance, directions, etc.

The application templates created by Misty will consist of the code that facilitates the skill, an implementation guide as well as a recorded workshop on how to use it. While initially seeded by Misty Robotics, templates will be supported and maintained by the community where developers are invited to extend the utility of the application and contribute their own code.

The Misty as a Concierge application template has practical use in a wide range of settings including:

  •  Hospitality – hotels (in room and lobby), luxury suites in entertainment venues
  • Eldercare – facilities (in room, lobby central gathering rooms), individual homes
  • Retail – front desk, non-staffed locations (e.g. printing desk, Floor Displays, e.g. a new car showroom), in-store display
  • Commercial Real Estate – front lobby, meeting rooms, visitor centers
  • Healthcare – Hospitals (in room and lobby), doctor’s offices
  • Education – school lobby, front offices
  • Museums – front lobby, specialized installations
  • Marketing – Events and activations

Visit Misty Robotics at the Venetian Tower, Hospitality, VEN 36-108 at CES 2020.

The Future of Robots Takes Center Stage with UBTECH at CES 2020

The future of robots will be on display with UBTECH at CES 2020. UBTECH will be showing its newest and most innovative robots, including the latest updates to Walker, the intelligent humanoid service robot that wowed audiences at last year’s CES, plus autonomous indoor monitoring robot AIMBOT, enterprise service robot Cruzr, and award-winning JIMU Robot kits for kids.

Walker, a finalist for the Best of 2019 award, will be back at CES 2020 with new capabilities and functionality improvements including faster motion performance, improved mobility interactions, and enhanced environmental perception. This year’s presentation will demonstrate Walker’s faster, human-like walking as well as yoga poses with dynamic stability showing its huge improvement in motion control.

Walker will also demonstrate new abilities such as the ability to push a cart, draw pictures, and write characters, showing improved static balance with full-body compliance control. Visual servoing now allows Walker to perform more complex grasping actions such as pouring liquid into a cup, using smart environmental perception to adjust the grasping posture of its palms in real time.

Demos of Walker will run throughout CES 2020. All show attendees are invited to see the robot’s newest capabilities on stage. Other robots on display in UBTECH’s Booth 26015 include:

AIMBOT, the autonomous monitoring robot built for intelligent inspection, efficient inventory management, safety and security of data centers, and power distribution rooms. UBTECH is demoing AIMBOT in a data center environment built for CES 2020, showing how AIMBOT can actively monitor indicator lights on server racks, detect readings on digital instruments, assist with inventory management through RFID technology, and more.

Cruzr, the customizable, cloud-based, intelligent humanoid service robot designed for Retail 4.0, exhibitions, hotels, healthcare, finance, and other enterprise service scenarios, Cruzr is where service meets intelligence, creating value for businesses to better attend to their customers’ needs, while allowing human teams to focus on more complex issues requiring human interaction. At CES 2020, UBTECH is demoing Cruzr’s U-SLAM navigation and obstacle avoidance, multi-modal interaction, facial recognition, humanoid design, and more.

JIMU Robot, the award-winning robotic building block system that actively prepares kids for a world in which robotics and STEM knowledge will be essential, while packaging this learning into fun, creative play. Ready to test at the booth will be the new Mythical Series: FireBot Kit, Competitive Series: ChampBot Kit and MeeBot 2.0 Kit, among others.

JIMU PRO Mars Expedition Kit, a preview of new and even more advanced robot building kits. This fun and inspiring robotic system allows children to create different types of multi-functional robots using modular parts that form an astronaut, a Mars rover vehicle, or a planetary base.

Each robot is designed to inspire children’s imagination about space exploration while giving them access to advanced, highly programable technologies such as a new Artificial Intelligence system, a camera with powerful image recognition ability and first-person view, precision steering module, high-resolution LED screen, and more. UBTECH will release JIMU PRO Mars Expedition Kit later in 2020.

Ambarella will Demonstrate New Robotics Platform at CES 2020

Ambarella, an AI vision silicon company, today announced that it will demonstrate its new robotics platform during CES 2020. Based on Ambarella’s CVflow architecture, it targets automated guided vehicles (AGV), consumer robots, industrial robots, and emerging industry 4.0 applications.

The robotics platform provides a unified software infrastructure for robotic perception across Ambarella’s CVflow SoC family including the CV2, CV22, CV25, and S6LM. It provides easy access and acceleration for the most common robotics functions including stereo processing, key points extraction, neural network processing, and Open Source Computer Vision Library (OpenCV) functions.

“With all eyes on the future of home and industrial robotics, we are thrilled to introduce and demonstrate this high performance robotics platform during CES to our manufacturing partners and customers,” said Jerome Gigot, senior director of marketing at Ambarella. “Combining the best of Ambarella’s advanced imaging capabilities with our high-performance CVflow architecture for computer vision, the new platform will help enable a new breed of smarter and more efficient consumer and industrial robots.”

The platform supports both the Linux operating system as well as the ThreadX RTOS for systems requiring functional safety, and it comes with a complete toolkit for image turning, neural network porting, and computer vision algorithm development. It also supports the Robotics Operating System (ROS) for easier development and visualization. A rich set of APIs makes it possible for applications developers to efficiently run higher-level algorithms including optical flow, visual odometry, and obstacle detection.

The new robotics platform and its related development kits are available today and can be paired with various mono and stereo configurations, as well as rolling shutter, global shutter, and IR sensor options.

Ambarella will demonstrate the new platform to select customers and partners during CES 2020.

DJI Introduces RoboMaster S1 Advanced Educational Robot

DJI, the global leader in civilian drones and aerial imaging technology, takes a step into educational technology by launching the RoboMaster S1, the company’s first ground-based robot. The S1 was built to introduce users to the fun and possibilities of robotic technology, with powerful brushless motors, a chassis that can move in all directions, a high-precision gimbal, and interactive modes for programming, play, and competition.

S1 users can have fun while assembling designated and custom hardware, learning to maneuver the rover, programming with Python or Scratch and competing with friends in multiple modes.

The S1, short for “Step 1”, is a highly advanced rover designed to give new users an easy introduction to AI, engineering, and robotics. With simple controls, a dedicated RoboMaster app, easily navigable menus, and a wealth of tutorials, the S1 is approachable to newcomers while offering advanced features to users already experienced in AI, engineering, and robotics.

The S1 is equipped with 31 sensors to help map the world around it, including six on its intelligent body armor, which are used to detect hits. Atop the durable S1 frame is a first-person view (FPV) camera that sends a stabilized live feed from the S1 to the RoboMaster app.

It also features a specialized gimbal with an infrared and nontoxic gel bead Blaster, which automatically limits launching rate and angle to ensure safety. The S1 is modular with DJI parts and also includes six Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) control ports so advanced users can take advantage of third-party hardware.

Using the FPV camera and machine vision technology, the S1 can identify different objects automatically, recognize and respond to sounds, and receive signals from other S1 units. The powerful central processing unit and industrial-grade CAN-bus cable enable it to process large amounts of data, maintaining a stable transmission signal even while performing multiple tasks.

Along with its brushless motor, the S1 has four Mecanum wheels, most commonly found on competitive robots, each with 12 rollers that allow omnidirectional movement and precision control while operating.

Starting June 12, the RoboMaster S1 will be available for purchase for the retail price of $499. A “PlayMore Kit”, which includes the dedicated gamepad, additional gel beads, one battery, and a gel bead container, will be available for purchase at a later date.