October 11, 2000
(IDG) -- Robots--whether they're your friends, servants, or
simply machines--are a staple of science fiction. And for
most people, they have remained nothing more than science
Now, though, the AmigoBot E-Presence expects to change that.
Imagine a small, bright-red, oval-shaped canister vacuum
cleaner, about 2 feet by 1 foot. It has no hoses or
attachments; instead it has lots of eyelike sensors and a
small video camera mounted at its slightly slimmer front
end. That's the basic AmigoBot, a simple remote-controlled
robot. Its sensors allow it to avoid objects automatically
while rolling around on its one small and two larger wheels.
The AmigoBot doesn't stop there. It has a wireless radio
modem, software for communication and control by PC, mapping
and programming software, a rechargeable battery, and a
program for access and control over the Internet.
So, what can you do with it? It can keep a friendly eye on
at-risk elderly relatives living alone. Or it can enable
brief play sessions with your pet during your lunch break,
or let you play with your kids while you are on a trip, say
You can also use the AmigoBot for impromptu Web
conferencing: Call in, get AmigoBot to find or call the
person you want, and chat. The included microphone,
speakers, and camera make this easy.
And if that's not enough to convince you, you may also
consider the AmigoBot a buddy. An expensive one, perhaps:
AmigoBot E-Presence costs $3195 and comes with a one-year
warranty. Two basic versions are also available: One without
the control software and camera, but with wireless remote
control costs $1795. The most basic version, controlled with
a wire, costs $1495.
It's one of several recent robot introductions, and it's
among the most flexible.
Rolling and Reporting
The robot has three modes of operation. You can control it
directly over the Internet. The robot intelligently avoids
obstacles, even if you try to make it drive into them. You
can also click a spot in a map of the robot's location, and
it will drive to the place you indicate. Finally, you can
set the robot to wander around a building randomly. It
travels as fast as 3 feet per second and can drive over
small bumps like the edge of a carpet, but it cannot
The robot has eight sonar detectors as built-in obstacle
detectors, in front, back, and side. The manufacturers are
developing a custom I/O port so you can add sensors, such as
thermal detectors or smoke detectors. Also planned is a
docking station for recharging and for continuous Internet
access. AmigoBot accesses the Internet through a
password-protected private link-up using a VPN.
Is AmigoBot ready to challenge Robby the Robot or one of
Isaac Asimov's imagined creations? Not yet: AmigoBot does
not have arms. It cannot pick up objects and it cannot move
objects. It also lacks built-in lasers, and it is too light
to hurt anyone, even a child. World domination by machines
is still only the stuff of pulp fiction.
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