Husqvarna's $1,995 Automower                          Friendly Robotics' $799.95 Robomow

12/30/2000 Robotics Alert:
  "Lawn Nibbler", the first automower with an onboard positional navigation system, has just been announced.  "Lawn Nibbler" might crack open the gateway to robotic lawnmowers. Lacking an onboard navigation system that can tell them where they are, previous robotic lawnmowers have mowed randomly around their yards, or in the case of Friendly Robotics' Robomow, have used a floating compass to allow them to mow adjacent strips of lawn. "Lawn Nibbler" is allegedly cheap to build, and considering the costs of lawn-mowing services ($25 a week?), there should be a receptive market for it. (Of course, lawn mowing services also trim and edge their lawns, and may even bag the grass.) Friendly Robotics has recently raised the price of "Robomow" from $695 to $795, and seems to be successfully selling their electronic billy-goats.
   If Friendy Robotics' "Robomow" is the Altair MITS kit of the robotics industry, "Lawn Nibbler" might well be its Commodore Personal Electronic Translator 200., ushering in the zero'th generation of household "robots" (or more realistically, mobile automatic machines). After decades of hype and false dawns, I believe we're seeing the first flush of the true dawn of the Robotics Revolution that will dramatically remake our world.  In two more years, once Hans Moravec rolls out his next-generation visually guided platform, we may be ready for the prototypical, first-generation, mobile household "robotic" platforms. In the meantime, automowers, autosweepers, and automoppers based upon "Lawn Nibbler's" technology may make small-scale incursions into the market for such devices. I still look for the first visually-navigated automowers, autosweepers, and automoppers to hit the market in three to five years. Their arrival will probably be gradual, and they will no more be true robots than are automatic washing machines. However, they will bring robotics into the consumer market, and will lay the groundwork for the ever-more intelligent robots that will follow. My offspring might buy one in the latter years of this decade when last year's model goes on sale at Walmart.
    Honda's ASIMO appears to represent a more serious move toward true anthropomorphic robots. ASIMO  probably constitutes Honda's learning-curve investment in the future of robotics.

        KISMET, the caring, feeling robot            KISMET's "mother",  ASIMO, Honda's humanoid robot
                                                                                   Cynthea Breazale          ASIMO will be rented out.


12/31/2000: Author's Note: Apparently, MIT's Robotics website shuts down on weekends. I'm unable to bring up  the two left-hand web pages. These hyperlinks will probably work again on Tuesday.
     I can see it coming: "Equal Rights for Robots!"  "We have feelings, too!" "And Man created robots after His own likeness. After His own likeness created He him."
    "The 1980s was the decade of the PC, the 90s of the Internet, but I believe the decade just starting will be the decade of the robot," Toshitada Doi, president of Sony Digital Creatures Laboratory, told a news conference.
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