Entertainment, Hardware

Robotic devices Court Santa Claus


Today, my in box had a list from the Robot Report with gift suggestions for the 2011 holiday season. Yes, it’s not yet Halloween, but Christmas is just around the corner.

Neither practical, nor inexpensive, but robots fit the phenomenal category according to the news release. Here are a few of their suggestions. Which will you put on your Santa list?

Patriot AR Drone quad-copterAdvertised as being for grandparents and teenagers is Parrot’s AR Drone QuidriCopter. It combines modeling, video gaming, and augmented reality. The helicopter-like AR.Drone is remote-controlled by an iPhone. We must admit to spending time fascinated by Parrot demos at conventions. They always draw a crowd. This ‘copter is priced at $299.

If your car doesn’t come with it, there is an adaptive cruise control option for new cars. Rather than a preset speed, it actively maintains a preset distance between vehicles. A great gift for those texting drivers who don’t watch where they are going. Please get one for all your friends ? keep the roadways safe.

LEGO NXT programmable robotics kitToo bad the report earmarked some robots as "for girls" as if all kids don’t have a broad range of interests. However, they advertise Penbo, an affectionate waddling penguin as appropriate for girls under 10 years of age, with an Amazon price tag of $45. LEGO Mindstorms NXT kit at $273 is geared towards kids 10 and older who are more science minded. How about introducing a kid to science via a buildable, programmable kit like this?

Willow Garage, the winner of WSJ’s Technology Innovation Award for robotics, has two gift suggestions. Their TurtleBot is also a robot building kit. However, their PR2 comes complete. It is a life-sized robot that gets around well in your home, doing chores by grasping and manipulating objects. Laundry day got you down? PR2 can even fold clothes. You can choose from a two armed version for $280,000 or knock off one arm and it’s yours for only $200,000. Not sure how a one armed robot can fold clothes, but they claim he can fetch a beer. That makes him priceless in some circles.

My favorite is a little guy I saw a couple years ago at a conference. Keepon was a collaboration between Hideki Kozima and Marek Michalowski, who combined his BA in psychology and MS in computer science from Yale, with a PhD in robotics from Carnegie Mellon University. This unassuming, but powerful robot is now called MyKeepon, seen in video below.

He began as a wonderful invention that assists teachers of autistic children. As a research tool for studying nonverbal communication and social behavior he is priced at $30,000. But as a reconfigured toy, he is only $49 at Toys R Us. Your purchase goes towards autism research.

Whether you want a robot for fun, teaching, entertainment, help around the home, or as a philanthropic gesture, this Christmas is going to be interesting.