Monday, December 01, 2003

Robotic Trends uses news-feeds to get the latest news & reports in robotics. Reading this makes you think everything is right around the corner... which is where these things always tend to be.

Sports: Tilden and Wow Wee Toys Develop BEAM-based Humanoid Robot ::

Tilden is widely recognized as the father of BEAM robotics, and predictably the RoboSapien product is based on BEAM technology and principles. BEAM, an acronym for Biology, Electronics, Aesthetics and Mechanics, is a philosophy that espouses that the design and function of robots should be based on simple control circuitry instead of complex microprocessors and scores of transistors. This simple circuitry is coupled with sensor technology, and the machinery of the BEAM robots body itself, to produce elegant biomechanical robots that bear an uncanny resemblance to creatures found in the wild (especially insects).

"Conventional control systems are complex, power hungry, CPU intensive, and downright expensive," notes Tilden. "Our approach was to take advantage of wave patterns like those used in nature to solve the basic problems of upright walking, motion, and balance at minimal cost. It isn't simple, but is significantly faster to get cool results with, and toys are a natural market for cool."

One question I always ask: are such simple architectures scalable to, say, a cat-level intelligence (forget human)? Of course not. The perception problem alone shows the failings of this type of system, let alone the intelligent reactions to a complex environment one expects from interesting creatures. People don't keep pet insects except for ants, which are different because the emmergent behavior of the colony has a greater intelligence than the components. This means that the novelty of the robot is what is being purchased, and not the behavior.

BUT, this model is sufficient to make people more interested in robotics. That drive will make downright expensive methods feasible given innovation.

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