Our dear BB pal and STREETtech.com editor Gareth Branwyn is the first guestblogger at LEGO's Nxtbot, a new blog about LEGO Mindstorms NXT and DIY robotics in general. From one of Gar's posts today:
MIT’s Rodney Brooks has an adage (to paraphrase): A bunch of working “dumb” bots (i.e. robots w/little computing power that sense and react directly to their environment) is better than one broken “smart” bot (i.e. a robot that maps its world, plans optimal routes through it, etc).Link (via STREETtech)
I propose a corollary: A robot that is actually on the market is better than a bunch of bots that are endlessly demo’d at trade shows. Look at the Hondo P3 and the Sony SDR-4/Qrio vs. the Wow Wee Robosapien and the iRobot Roomba. While Hondo and Sony keep parading around these perpetual demobots but never bring them to market (and Sony just turned the development lights out on Qrio), the Robosapien and the Roomba are proven market successes and are now several product generations in pedigree.
NEC’s answer to the Honda and Sony demobots is the PaPeRo (”Partner-Type Personal Robot”). While it’s an undisputedly cute little rug-rover, and has enjoyed plenty of ink and electrons since it was first rolled out in 2001, it remains in the prototype stage and there is still no release date. If you ask me, I think there should be a “put-up or shut-up” statute for such prototypes. If you show off a prototype and it garners a bunch of media attention, and then you don’t bring it to market in, let’s say three years, you gotta retire it; show us a NEW concept robot. Hey, maybe that’s what Sony did on their own. The SDR-4 cum Qrio couldn’t cut the mustard, so they did the only honorable thing, they took it off the world stage and stopped teasing us with it. So, what’s it going to be NEC? The shelves of my local Target or the wayside on the road to Robotopia?
And, in case you didn’t notice, the robots above that are actually on the market are of the “dumb bot” variety while the ones in perpetual prototypical stage are “smart bots.” Coincidence? We think not.
David Pescovitz is Boing Boing's co-editor/managing partner. He's also a research director at Institute for the Future. On Instagram, he's @pesco.