Author Topic: Personal Robot as a Commercially Available Product  (Read 468 times)

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Offline amigoTopic starter

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Personal Robot as a Commercially Available Product
« on: March 15, 2014, 05:53:09 PM »
I have a degree in mechanical engineering and run an awarded manufacturing operation for 15 years where I also happen to be the head of design & engineering. My passion is in product design, engineering and manufacturing, from balance a production line to the design and deployment of simple automation by the use of PLCs (which I find mostly archaic). I have a knowledge in Visual Basic and basic electronics. I use to build radios when I was 10 and still remember Basic from my Sinclair ZX80. Those were good time and actually when recently I have to develop a new application fro tablets using Visual Basic I could not believe how unfriendly the Visual Basic interface and commands seems to be. I thought by now computer language would be a lot more streamlined. So my strength is in aluminium structural design and mechanisms and manufacturing. That allowed me to come this far.

However I have the passion to make personal robots to help people on every days tasks. I would like to start with simple solutions that I can develop mostly myself. then expans as a team and manufacture it in the US. As a future goal, this could grow into a very nice company that could be all robotics, from automated pods, to sophisticated robots. So my immediate goal is to learn the other areas of robotics that are not my strength such as electronics and computer science, mechanic specific things and of course the whole integration of it.

So I have three basic questions:

A.) If I am going to learn it all by myself. Is there a specific microcontroller and language that I should focus on for simple personal robots. By simple I mean, for the sake of example, a robot that would carry things around for you, from point A to point B with sensors to avoid collision. Not a humanoid, but a rover style I believe.

B.) If I focus on a micro controller, let's say such as an Arduino, would you say that is simply for prototyping, but then I would use other components to actually manufacturing a commercially available product? If so should I focus on designing and making my own boards with specific electronic components. If so what chip?

C.) If you think that learn it  by oneself is not possible, I would consider going back to school for an MS in Robotics. I have seen a lot of things and even online offerings. I know that would mean GRE, interviews, lots of money but I am at a turning point that I could pursue it if it is worthy. I thought that an MS by a reputable institution would help me a lot to not only collaborate by give the credential to attract great talent to my future company. The question is if you think that an MS in robotics are very hands on and would help an entrepreneurial engineer like me a lot by developing practical use robots or would that be overkill and overly theoretical and worthy only for someone interested in working another company?

I would highly appreciate your opinion to this mechanical engineer, aspiring robot builder

All Best

Amigo

Offline jwatte

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Re: Personal Robot as a Commercially Available Product
« Reply #1 on: March 15, 2014, 09:39:23 PM »
There are three main problems in personal robotics:

1) The power/weight/cost triangle for actuators.
2) Battery longevity.
3) AI or other user interfaces that actually make sense to people.

All of those are open research problems.

That being said, if you want to prototype, you can start with an Arduino, because it is very easy to get started with, but it will very quickly become limited. If you want to do things like smart navigation in realistic indoor environments, you will need a lot more computational power  (think chair legs, table cloths, vacuum cleaner left on the floor, lamp cables across walkways, ...) Thus, something like an Intel NUC or a mini-ITX motherboard with a real Intel CPU on it would be more suitable for the high-level control. (The Arduino can still do the low-leve bit banging to send control signals to motors/actuators and read raw sensors.)

Education is always good. If you can get a MS Robotics, you'd probably enjoy it, and it might just be a good investment for you in general. However, if you're currently running a business that's providing a living for you and a family, the culture shock of back-to-school might be very harsh.

In general, the "personal robotics" problem is much easier to solve when the domain is well defined. Think Roomba for vacuuming, or RoboMower for lawn mowing. Because the task is well defined and the environment is well defined, safety, runtime, robustness, cost, and other important factors can all be selected to create a product that would actually be bought by people (they provide enough value that the price is worth it.)


Offline amigoTopic starter

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Re: Personal Robot as a Commercially Available Product
« Reply #2 on: March 19, 2014, 04:25:35 PM »
Thank you Jwatte

I really appreciate your response and your time.

I believe I will start with the library suggestion in this website and go from there. It looks like it is very well thought out.

In parallel to it I will search a MS perhaps in my own area of ME with emphasis in robotics and/or automation if available. As you said it might be a bit hard to go back to school and I might remain the spoiled self didactic that I am. Thanks to people like you and forums like these there are so much information available for actually applied robotics. Thank you for your contributions.

Basically I have a strong mechanical, manufacturing and business foundation and need to add the layers of electronics and computer science to it so that I can conceive powerful products. Another idea which is probably the most sensible one would be to learn enough so that I can communicate and attract talent and build an amazing team. That way I would be a catalyst for an incredible new company, using my background and inviting people with their specific areas of expertise since realistically robotics is such a broad topic.

Thank you again!

Amigo

Offline jwatte

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Re: Personal Robot as a Commercially Available Product
« Reply #3 on: March 20, 2014, 03:04:11 PM »
Sounds like you have a real, long-term plan! That's a good start right there. Best of luck!

 


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