What if you could shoot a video without the need for a photographer? a developer from Silicon Valley who participated in a competition recently created a prototype of a robot that might one they allow all of us to do just that.
Bill gates is known as one of the founders of the personal computer. What is less known is the fact that in recent years (and even after he retired from Microsoft), Gates is advocating for what he sees as the next groundbreaking technological revolution – robotics (see for example this interview with Gates from 2011).
Actually Gates saw a similarity between the early days of the PC industry in the 1970′s and status of the robotic industry today. Many of the same problems which plagued the early personal computing industry can be found in today’s DIY robotic industry including high costs, complexity of the systems (involving knowledge from several disciplines including mechanical and electrical engineering and programming) and very specialized proprietary development without any standardization.
Gates wanted to help the DIY robotic community, and created a robotics division inside Microsoft which among other things wanted to harness the creative power of DIY hobbyist around the world by supplying them with the tools they require (both in terms of hardware and standers and in term of software and a shared programming tools for robotics development).
The Microsoft Robotics @Home competition is another important way in which Gates’ dream of a robot at every house might one day turn into a realty with the help of the DIY and hobbyist community. The basic idea of the competition is to give the community tools and let them come up with new and innovative uses and applications. The robot chosen for the most recent competition was the Eddie Robot Platform manufactured by parallax.
Using Eddie, many hobbyists submitted proposals for robots to Microsoft and a team of judges selected several finalists in different categories including Photography, Home Assistance, Elderly Care, Home Security, Music & Dance, Navigation algorithms and more.
The wining robot this year was developed by Arthur Wait, VP of Engineering at SolutionSet (a large web site development company). Known as SmartTripod the unit is basically a smart robotic photographer based on the Eddie platform.
Wait demonstrated the capabilities and basic structure (both the hardware and software side) in the following (very well made) video:
The SmartTripod might be an ideal tool for people who record how to’s videos but can also be a very useful solution for e-learning (as a relatively simple low cost solution for recording lectures in a non boring manner). Wait himself demonstrated the capabilities of the SmartTripod by shooting an entire video of his own with it (making Baked Rigatoni). Do notice how the camera tracks Wait as he moves around and focus on his hands:
In the future Wait wants to add another camera to the SmartTripod for wide angle shots as well as make other improvements and adjustments. It’s unclear at this point if and when the prototype will become a consumer product but given the right price it could have a considerable market.
More information can be found on Arthur Wait’s SmartTripod page on Google+.
Iddo has a B.A. in Philosophy and Cognitive Science and an M.A. in Philosophy of Science from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He is currently writing his Ph.D. thesis on the relationship between the scientific community and industry. Iddo was awarded the 2006 Bar Hillel philosophy of science prize for his work on the relationship between science and technology. He is a member of the board of the lifeboat foundation and was the editor of several high-profile science and technology websites since 1999.