21st Century Robotics (Scientific American Special Online by Scientific American

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Extra info for 21st Century Robotics (Scientific American Special Online Issue No. 14)

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Its exterior shell has been removed to reveal an inner skeleton, common to all three siblings, that allows them to work like PCs on wheels. COPYRIGHT 2004 SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN, INC. A simple metal frame holds up to six shelves at various positions. “All of the electronics mount on these trays, which slide out,” he explains. One tray holds the motherboard, which is a diminutive MiniITX made by VIA that crams an Intelcompatible processor with 512 megabytes of memory, video, audio and networking chips all onto a circuit board the size of a bread plate.

Behind the sweeper are two squeegee blades with a narrow slot between them—a “microvacuum” designed to suck up dust and hair. ) The dirt ends up in a plastic cartridge. The only controls are an “on” switch and three buttons to specify whether the room is small, medium or large. When you press one, Roomba starts moving in a spiral; after a while, it goes straight until it hits something, then turns, sometimes heading back toward the center of the room, other times executing a scallop-shaped path to try to follow a wall.

Aibo can perceive colors as well: in its muzzle is a complementary metal oxide semiconductor (CMOS) imager that gives the dog a 40,000-pixel view of the world. Aibo’s software is equally impressive. Sony designed the robot so that a variety of programs, each encoded on a memory stick, can be inserted in the dog’s belly. If you choose the Aibo Life program, for instance, the robot initially acts like a newborn pup and gradually learns how to walk and do tricks. But if you want a fully trained pooch right away, simply pop in the memory stick containing the Hello Aibo program.

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