This Roboticist Says a Major Robotics Revolution is Around the Corner

ZDNet interviewed Pieter Abbeel, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the University of California, Berkeley. He says a major revolution is coming thanks to machine vision.

Giving robots the gift of sight completely changes what’s possible. Computer Vision, the area of AI concerned with making computers and robots see, has undergone a night-and-day transformation over the past 5-10 years — thanks to Deep Learning. Deep Learning trains large neural networks (based on examples) to do pattern recognition, in this case pattern recognition enabling understanding of what’s where in images. And then Deep Learning, of course, is providing capabilities beyond seeing.

FCC Filing Reveal Dyson's Next Robotic Vacuum 'Dyson 360 Hyperdymium'

Dyson is working on its next robotic vacuum and an FCC filing reveals the details, such as new brushless motors.

Branding on the device suggests it will also use Dyson’s new Hyperdymium motors. This is simply Dyson’s name for its latest brushless electric motors, which have appeared in its most recent stick vacuums. It also looks like you can remove part of the internal tubing (picture 4 below) that connects the bin to the brushes. That would be a neat upgrade, as the 360 Heurist had a tendency to clog when vacuuming piles of large debris.

iRobot Releases J7+ Robot Vacuum With Upgraded Smarts

Tomorrow I’ll be publishing a review of an iRobot robot mop that I bought a few weeks ago. But today the company announced a new product, the j7+ robot vacuum.

Dozens of gradual improvements have resulted in the current operating system, the iRobot Genius 3.0. This system brings never-before-seen levels of A.I. personalization and control to robot vacuums. The system utilizes your phone’s location services to begin cleaning when you leave home and stop when you come home, ensuring a clean floor at all times.

Behind The Scenes: How Boston Dynamics Builds Robots

Boston Dynamics has released a video of its Atlas robot, as well as a behind-the-scenes glimpse of it jumping through an obstacle course.

Unlike the previous two videos, which showed one-off tricks, the new video shows Atlas doing an entire obstacle course in one go, which the company says helps with reliability and repeatability. Trying to get through a whole obstacle course leads to a lot of failures and helps the hardware and software teams track down what “strategic upgrades” need to be made to help the robot get through the course.

Someone Built a Preacherbot Powered by AI and it’s Awesome

Artist Diemut Strebe built a praying robot “to explore the possibilities of an approximation to celestial and numinous entities by performing a potentially never-ending chain of religious routines and devotional attempts for communication through a self-learning software.” The production is a collaboration with Regina Barzilay, Tianxiao Shen, Enrico Santus, all MIT CSAIL, Amazon Polly, Bill and Will Sturgeon, Elchanan Mossel, MIT, Stefan Strauss, Chris Fitch, Brian Kane, Keith Welsh, Webster University, Matthew Azevedo. “Wretched sinner unit! The path to robot heaven lies here… in the Good Book 3.0.” ―Lionel Preacherbot

Program Your Own Robot or Drone With a pi-top Kit

I’ve been a fan of Raspberry Pi for years. This tiny computer can do so much with such a tiny footprint. It can be your desktop computer, a classic arcade game, or whatever you dream up. The board even features a general purpose input/ouput (GPIO) header. This allows you to incorporate electronics components, like sensors, LED lighting, motors and servos. Hobbyists have used the Raspberry Pi in robotics applications almost from day one. This latest product, though, takes the hobby to another level. It’s the pi-top [4] robotics kit, and it allows makers to develop just about anything they can imagine. It’s programmable in Python, .NET, and more. You can program your robot or drone to avoid obstacles, recognize lines and objects, respond to gestures, racognize faces, and more. The pi-top [4] Complete Kit includes everything you need to get started. You’ll get the Raspberry Pi 4 Model B, the pi-top case, and enough electronic components to really get your feet wet. For construction of your robot or drone, the pi-top and included metal plate work with LEGO and Meccano, as well as things you make from raw materials or repurposed objects.

Neato Robot Vacuums Can Be Controlled With Siri Shortcuts

Neato Robotics announced today that it added support for Siri Shortcuts within its app. This means you can start controlling your robot vacuum with your voice.

By connecting your Neato to Siri Shortcuts, Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa, you can simply start cleaning just by using your voice.

I’d love to get a robot vacuum some day. In the meantime, if you have one of these products, try controlling it with a shortcut on your HomePod, Apple Watch, or iOS device.

PETA Wants to Replace Punxsutawney Phil With AI

Animal rights group PETA wants to replace famous groundhog Punxsutawney Phil with an animatronic AI.

The way the group sees it, not only would an AI be better at estimating when the winter will end, but it would also attract an entirely new generation of visitors to the western Pennsylvanian town. “Today’s young people are born into a world of terabytes, and to them, watching a nocturnal rodent being pulled from a fake hole isn’t even worthy of a text message,” Newkirk said. “Ignoring the nation’s fast-changing demographics might well prove the end of Groundhog Day.”

The Anki Vector Robot is Coming Back

Anki built little companion robots like Vector and Cosmo. But in early 2019 the company ran out of money and shut down. But the CEO of Digital Dream Labs announced it had purchased Anki’s assets and will continue to develop the Anki Vector robot.

1)  We will develop an “Escape Pod”.  This will, safely, expose settings and allow the user to move and set endpoints, and by doing so, remove the need for the cloud server.

2)  We will develop a “Dev Vector”.  Many users have asked us for open source and the ability to do more with their Vector even to the point of hosting him on their own servers.  With this feature, developers will be able to customize their robot through a bootloader we will develop.

Robotics Video: Evan Rachael Wood Meets Sophia

Mashable writes about an upcoming short film featuring two famous robots, one of whom is an actress and one is real.

Unless you live under a rock, you might know of the world’s most famous real-life humanoid, Sophia, the robot…

An enticing trailer for has recently come out for a short film called SophiaWorld starring HBO’s Westworld actress Evan Rachael Wood…

Television’s most famous Robot, actress Evan Rachel Wood, and arguably the world’s most famous real-life humanoid, Sophia the Robot, have a chance encounter in a swanky NY hotel bar…

The short film will premiere on September 4 on

Neato Robot Vacuums Can Use Siri Shortcuts

Neato robotic vacuums can use Siri Shortcuts and HomeKit, like starting, pausing, and stopping cleaning later this year.

Zone cleaning lets you deploy the vacuum to specific, targeted areas of your house so they get cleaned more readily, and it sounds like you’ll be able to set up Siri shortcuts for specific zones. That should let user use voice commands to send the vacuum to different parts of the house, a pretty handy feature. And if you’re not so much into the voice commands, Siri Shortcuts will enable the Neato app to learn and suggest times to send out your vacuum with lock screen suggestions.

Future Historian Steve Carper - TMO Background Mode Interview

Steve Carper is a Future Historian, researching how the dazzling future that dominated the Golden Age of science fiction was created—starting with the technological frenzy of the late 19th century.

Steve writes a bi-weekly robot column at and his latest book, published in June 2019, is Robots in American Popular Culture. This book examines society’s reactions to robots and androids such as Robby, Rosie, Elektro, Sparko, Data, WALL-E, C-3PO and the Terminator in popular culture.

Steve and I discussed his new book, covering some of the most famous robots of fiction and then all aspects of robot technology in our culture: robots as servants, enemies, lovers, children, successors and doubles. Where will the evolution of robots take our society next? Klaatu barada nikto.

An Example of How Robots Will Augment Not Replace Jobs

From FastCompany: “A hospital introduced a robot to help nurses. They didn’t expect it to be so popular”

That means nurses don’t even have to remember certain tasks that used to be part of their daily job, which is a meaningful way to reduce their cognitive load. “They don’t have to think about telling the robot to do things,” says [Vivian] Chu, who has a PhD in robotics from Georgia Tech.

This kind of optimized offloading will help workers focus on being even more productive. That is, if employers figure that out. [Image credit: FastCompany.]

Robots Company Anki Shuts Down

Robotics company Anki announced that it’s shutting down, and close to 200 employees would be paid a week of severance. The company said it was left without “significant funding” to support its goals.

“Despite our past successes, we pursued every financial avenue to fund our future product development and expand on our platforms,” a company spokesperson said. “A significant financial deal at a late stage fell through with a strategic investor and we were not able to reach an agreement. We’re doing our best to take care of every single employee and their families, and our management team continues to explore all options available.”

Sad to see. I remember first seeing Anki announced at Apple’s keynote back in 2013.

TMO Background Mode Interview with Takeoff Technologies President Max Pedró

Max Pedró is an eCommerce and financial services entrepreneur. Today, Max is the Co-Founder and President of Takeoff Technologies Inc.

Takeoff Technologies aims at transforming on-line grocery retailing by developing a marketplace of efficient automated robotic fulfillment centers to solve the cost and immediacy issues of grocery shopping.

I asked Max all the tough questions about having a robot pick groceries off the shelves and prepare for pickup or delivery. What about customer preferences for just the right piece of fruit or cut of meat? What about perishables? What about the security of the iOS app? Will they sell customer data? Can we use Apple Pay? And finally, how does the grocery chain obtain an ROI? Max has the answers in this fascinating interview.

An Amazing Basketball-shooting, 3 Point Specialist Robot [Video]

Business Insider writes: “Toyota built Cue 3 to demonstrate the robot’s use of “visual feedback” when shooting. Cue 3 can’t run, dribble, or execute the other fundamentals necessary to play alongside humans.” But maybe soon! And the skills demonstrated here will, no doubt, someday be absorbed into more well-rounded robots. (Image credit: BI/Toyota.)