Futuristic robots are not the stuff of science fiction anymore
Nov. 15, 2010
by Mark Ollig

The word “robot” is said to have first appeared in the play “Rossum’s Universal Robots,” which premiered in 1921.

In this play, a factory is making artificial people called robots.

Credit for the creation of the word, “robot” is generally given to a writer named Josef Kapek.

Robot is derived from the Czech word “robota.”

The Czech noun, “robota,” means “labor.”

My earliest memory of robots occurred while watching the Lost in Space television show in the late 1960s.

Simply known as “The Robot” this helpful automaton accompanied the Robinson family while they traveled onboard their Jupiter 2 spacecraft.

Officially, it was identified as Robot B9.

For fans of Lost in Space who dreamed how cool it would be to have their very own working robot – dream no more.

For only $25,000 (yes, you read it right), you can have your very own, full-size, and fully functional Lost in Space B9 robot.

The B9 robots are all meticulously handmade to exacting details – they are complete replicas, and look amazing.

After seeing videos and pictures taken of the proud and smiling owners standing alongside their B9 robots, I sensed they were as much followers of the Lost in Space television show in their youth as I was.

If you want to have your own Robot B9, check out the company’s website for all the details at www.lostinspacerobot.com.

Back in 1954, George Devol created the first industrial-use robot called Unimate.

Devol’s robot patent was filed Dec. 10, 1954. He was issued US patent 2,988,237 June 13, 1961.

Unimate was an electronically controlled, hydraulic heavy-lifting arm which repeated certain motions via programmable instructions.

In 1961, Unimate was in operation on a General Motors assembly line in Trenton, NJ.

GM used Unimate to lift and stack hot pieces of metal removed from a die-casting machine.

A good source for personal and professional robot technology can be found at www.robotshop.com.

Information about personal robots, robotic lawn mowers, room vacuum cleaners, and surveillance robots can be found there, as well.

One robot, which caught my eye, was the Meccano Spykee WiFi Spy Robot, which comes in a kit one assembles, and when finished, stands approximately 12 inches tall.

This robot is a wireless VoIP phone, a webcam, a music player for your MP3s, and a personal home video surveillance guard.

It can be controlled via a computer connected to the Internet from anywhere in the world.

If the robot detects any movement while you are away, it will take a picture of what it sees and automatically send it to you via e-mail.

The Meccano Spykee also includes a microphone, speaker, lights, rubber tracks, a built-in WiFi card, and some cool- looking fiber optics.

This intelligent robot will even automatically return to its battery charging station when it needs recharging.

“It’s a toy, but many people use it as surveillance robot,” said Jennifer Briand, the product manager for Spykee.

“At the beginnings we thought that very young adults would be very interested in the product, but today we know that we have a lot of adults from 25 to 55 that like to play with Spykee. When you ask them what the favorite function is, they say they really like to drive it when they’re out of the home,” Briand said.

It costs $349 and can be ordered from http://goo.gl/sywVT.

The Spykee world home website is located at http://goo.gl/r4giJ.

It’s interesting to note how many folks are starting to own personal surveillance robots for monitoring their homes and businesses.

From a remote location across town or across the country, a person is able to control the movement of their robot inside their home or business; in addition, they are able to see and hear what the robot observes.

This gives one the sense of actually being in the same location as the robot. This feeling is called “telepresence.”

Imagine being away on vacation and you want to do a “security walk” around the inside of your house.

Simply pop open your laptop, connect to your home-based robot, and survey your domain through the eyes of your mobile robotic watch dog.

With the built-in speaker, you could even be the robot’s voice and talk with a family member who was at home – or yell at any intruders.

Imagine the surprise an intruder would receive when confronted by a robot with your voice saying “Get out of here right now! I’m calling the police!”

Robert Oschler, a programmer, built a customized electronic robot equipped with a camera, microphone, and speakers.

He attached his robot on top of a three-wheeled motorized platform.

Oschler is able to access this robot from his computer over an Internet connection.

He is then able to maneuver the robot throughout his house, while watching live video and hearing the audio sent from the robot.

“Fortunately, I’ve never logged in and seen a human face,” Oschler said

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