Editor’s Note: The following story is a guest contribution by robotics instructor Aaron Miller @aaromiller.
These digital creatures have been maneuvering about our households for years as prototypes and consumer ready models – long before the robots we see today. Samsung’s iComar had all the right features for a household robot. iComar took advantage of a camera for visual recognition, a few microphones for hearing, a piezoelectric sensor for touch, and nine ultrasonic range detectors for obstacle detection. It was capable of moving around autonomously and allowed users the ability to command it to do certain tasks, such as playing music and controlling appliances according to your schedule.
iComar was able to connect to what was, at the time, the Internet. We were still having fun with dial-up in the early 2000s, so as seen in the commercial, the video feed was tiny and low-quality. The robot’s internet connectivity meant users could plot waypoints for it to move around the house. If iComar detected unusual activity during the day, it’d sound an alarm and alert its owners via text messages. Its internet video capabilities also meant live video chats with other users while away.
Powering iComar was a Pentium MMX 266MHz CPU; these chips were made by Intel and the same you would find powering an IBM PC of the time. The robot stood two feet tall and weighed 22 lbs. It had two arms and a head that could gesture as well as a wheeled base for mobility. Children may have also found this robot exciting as it was designed with “edutainment” in mind, both educational and entertaining. Admittedly so, this robot is very cute. However, as we see in various interface models in the robots of today, the applications needed to control the robot makes it more of a glorified and complex PC and less of that autonomous robot we all desire to aid with daily life. Perhaps we can learn from these forgotten home robots and build even better human-robot interactions.
Image: Plastic Pals (modified)
Via: Plastic Pals