Cell phone controlled house robot

October 20, 2008 8:21:45 AM PDT
Imagine pulling out a cellphone in your car, not to place a call, but to maneuver a robot back home to check on the family.

In this hand I have a robot. In this one a phone. We are going to control the robot using the phone and look through the robot's eyes. Let's say you're out shopping one day, and you want to take a tour of the house to see what's happening back home, using the phone.

The robot is called Rovio. Its manufacturer, Wowwee, is marketing it as a fun toy. But it's not hard to imagine a few non-toy uses. For example, checking to see who's at the door. Or whether the dog is still in the yard. You can travel sideways like crab.

Of course, remote vision robots are serious business to NASA and public safety.

Dep. John Rizqallah of the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Bomb Squad says, "Our motto in the bomb community is 'Start remote, stay remote.'" Silicon Valley's own Bomb Squad uses two robots made by Remotec. They have the added capability of grabbing a suspicious package, and even blowing it up. And more than just one camera.

"We've found through actual experience," says Rizqallah, "dealing with real pipe bombs and actual call-outs that these robots are just invaluable to us."

However, the pro version can cost up to hundreds of thousands of dollars. The home version less than $300.

We had some minor issues with our early model. The battery didn't last as long as we'd like. And setting up an Internet connection requires more than average computer skill. But household use is quite simple. Rovio works with any Web browser with a Wi-Fi connection, including gaming devices such as XBox. In the browser, you can email snapshots. You can listen as well as see, and speak through the robot. You can set waypoints. One waypoint is home base, where Rovio returns to recharge itself after a hard day of roving.

And you were concerned when they started putting cameras on phones!

------- Links -------

HOME VERSION
WOW WEE GROUP LIMITED
WowWee Rovio Mobile Webcam
WowWee www.WowWee.com
Price on WowWee Online Store: $299.99

EVOLUTION ROBOTICS/NORTHSTAR SYSTEM
Developer of Rovio's navigation system.
Evolution Robotics www.evolution.com

PROFESSIONAL VERSION
SANTA CLARA COUNTY OFFICE OF THE SHERIFF
SPECIAL OPERATIONS -- BOMB SQUAD
Bomb Squad http://tinyurl.com/5dzgyw
The County of Santa Clara - Sheriff www.sccsheriff.org/portal site/sheriff/
Go Sheriff www.gosheriff.com

Never pick up or disturb a bomb or suspicious package. Some bombs can detonate when picked up. Call 911 instead.


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