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Mass Market Robots

Boot Camp feature for Friday, January 17, 2003

Robots for the mass market? Bloomberg Boot Camp, a report on today's technology. It is called the ER2, a prototype of a new personal robot unveiled by a company called Evolution Robotics. CEO Bernard Louvat says new low cost navigation technology called visual simultaneous localization and mapping is what sets the ER2 apart...

"A robot could build a map of its environment and to localize itself on the map. And therefore know at any moment in time where it is and is able to go to a location that the user will ask him to go. So that's a very powerful technology that could be ported to any mobile robot."

Evolution Robotics has already licensed the technology to Japanese toymaker Bandai which plans to create a robotic cat. It will compete with Sony's line of robotic dogs. So far, the market has been pretty limited for expensive robotic toys. A 200 dollar robotic vacuum cleaner from iRobot arrived on the market last fall and is being sold in gadget stores. Louvat believes the invasion of the robots is about to begin...

"There are a number of other consumer electronics manufacturers that are working on a number of robot products, whether they are single purpose robots that serve only one task such as cleaning or multi-purpose robots that will perform service tasks from home security to education, entertainment and communication."

Evolution Robotics faces plenty of competition... but hopes to work with a manufacturing partner to begin mass production of a multi-function robot for consumers within two years. Bloomberg Boot Camp, I'm Fred Fishkin.