Tag Archives: robotics

Amazon’s Newest Products

Ready for a robot in your home? Amazon thinks you might find it useful, along with several other new product updates to its Echo brand. The new products seem to focus in integration with other Amazon products. (For example, a new Ring Alarm Pro meshes with the Eero Wi-Fi router.)

Another of the products include:

  • Amazon’s Smart Thermostat. The thermostat links with Alexa for commands, and also adjust temperature when you are out of the house. Cost: $59.99
  • The new Echo Show 15 is a 15.6-inch smart frame that can be mounted on a wall or placed on a stand to show the family calendar, notes, and stream different content. It can also recognize your face and show content personalized for the viewer. Cost: $249.99.
  • Capitalizing on the home fitness trend, the new Halo View fitness band has a built-in display and can access studio workouts and meal planning tools. Cost: $3.99/month after the first year with purchase of the fitness band.
  • Other new products include Amazon Glow interactive projector for kids, Ring Alarm Pro, Disney virtual assistant, and Alexa Together remote care subscription service.

But our favorite might just be Astro, the home robot. Astro has a cute looking monitor as it rolls around the house and can be commanded by Alexa. Astro can have pre-set routine household patrols (on one floor only, no stairs) and uses a periscope with a 12-megapixel camera that can be raised to 42-inches. It can create a 3-D map of the house so it can be dispatched to various rooms on command. Sensors keep it from crashing into people and walls. But the best feature – a cargo bin so that small items (such as cans of beverages) can be transported to humans who are in another room. Cost: $999.99 to a limited number of invites.

Hmmm. I can see it now –  “Astro, bring me a drink during the football game.”

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Discuss the importance of product development and innovation.
  2. Amazon is usually considered only as a retailer. Why is it investing so much in new product development?
  3. Show video of Amazon’s latest product launch: https://youtu.be/nOYctKrANxQ
  4. The announcements can be accessed at: https://www.aboutamazon.com/news/devices/amazon-devices-services-news-september-2021
  5. A short video on Astro: https://youtu.be/h-2LXb-0Rfs
  6. Divide students into teams and assign each team one of the products. Have students determine the target market for the products. How should the product be promoted?

Source:  Amazon; New York Times; Wall Street Journal; other news sources

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That Robot Can Dance!

We love robots. They are endlessly fascinating to us as we contemplate the technological advances that make robots useful to humans. They can carry gear, map territories, and enter spaces unsafe to humans. But of all their uses, we particularly like how robots can bust a move and dance (remember Spot the robot dancing to Uptown Funk?)!

Thanks to its incredibly animated robots and technology, Boston Dynamics may be the world’s most well-known robotics company. Boston Dynamics was originally an offshoot of Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is now owned by Hyundai Motor Group. Its robots include Atlas, Spot, Big Dog, and Handle.

Programming the robots to dance was a daunting task, requiring hundreds of hours of work. The programming had to let robots balance, bounce, and (seemingly) even carry a rhythm. Atlas the robot uses a vast array of sensors, actuators, and a gyroscope to help it balance. It also contains three quad-core onboard computers. The result is an imaginative display of robotic versatility and possibility.

Dancing to the 1962 hit song “Do you love me?” by The Contours, Atlas and friends seem determined to get humans to love them indeed.

But can they salsa?

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. First, show the video of Atlas and Spot dancing: https://youtu.be/fn3KWM1kuAw
  2. Bring up Boston Dynamics’s Web site: http://www.bostondynamics.com
  3. Bring up Boston Dynamics YouTube page with videos and show robots in action: https://www.youtube.com/user/BostonDynamics
  4. Dancing Spot can be viewed at: https://youtu.be/kHBcVlqpvZ8
  5. Discuss the concepts of products, product line, and product mix.
  6. What are commercial and business applications for each robot?
  7. What companies might buy robots (beyond the military)?
  8. Divide students into teams. Have each team develop a business-to-business marketing campaign for robots.

Source:  Associated Press; Boston Dynamics

 

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Spot, the Robotic Dog, Now Prowls the Floor at Ford

Spot, the robotic dog from Boston Dynamics, is now prowling manufacturing plants for Ford Motor Co. Ford calls the dog “Fluffy” and it doesn’t act as barking security guard, but rather is helping to map and update engineering plans at several manufacturing facilities. Fluffy wanders the 2-million-squar-foot transmission plan floor with its digital engineering handler, using laser scanning and imaging to produce detailed and accurate maps that Ford engineers can use to revamp the facility.

You may have heard of Spot previously as one of Boston Dynamics intriguing robotic lines. Boston Dynamics now sells Spot for $74,500 (for commercial purposes only). Since September, Boston Dynamics has sold or leased more than 250 Spot robots. Spot is typically used in construction or the electric utility industry, but was also recently used at a hospital’s emergency department to help assess patients with Covid-19.

Spot weighs 70 pounds and is equipped with five cameras that give it 360-degree vision to avoid obstacles and travels at 3 mph for several hours, constantly gathering data (without needing dog treats or a place to pee). The nimble robot is able to navigate tight spaces that the average-sized person can’t reach. It can climb stairs, cross metal grates, and keep its balance on slippery surfaces.

At Ford, Fluffy scans the plant in half of the time as needed by humans, and significantly reduces costs while maintaining accuracy.

But can it fetch the newspaper?

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Discuss the concepts of products, product line, and product mix.
  2. Bring up Boston Dynamics’s Web site: http://www.bostondynamics.com
  3. More videos can be found at: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC7vVhkEfw4nOGp8TyDk7RcQ.
  4. Show a video of Fluffy at Ford: https://www.wsj.com/video/the-robot-revolution-is-happeninglike-it-or-not/33C97F82-2E8B-4371-B635-C3DE3E375671.html
  5. Have students develop a marketing campaign to sell Spot to businesses.
  6. Finally, make sure to watch Spot dancing to Uptown Funk! https://youtu.be/kHBcVlqpvZ8

Source:  Boston Dynamics; Engadget; Wall Street Journal; other news sources

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