For decades people dreamed of inventing robots that would be at our beck and call. In the 1950s, some envisioned home robots that could fetch and carry, and even vacuum the carpet. Well, robots that can do all that and more are due to appear in the next few months.
Some can mow the lawn; some can run your PC. Sony has an artificial dog. Eureka has a robot, probably coming out next year, that will vacuum your house.
Those robots run in the thousands of dollars, however. Some even come in kits that you have to assemble yourself.
A small robotics company in Pittsburgh has started to sell what it calls the first "affordable" personal robot. Named "Cye," it costs $695 a pop and no assembly is required. It is pre-programmed and runs off your home computer, relying upon wireless communication.
Once "Cye" knows where a home's furniture and corners and bumps are, it's ready to go. The robot has attachments that enable it to pull your vacuum cleaner around or carry things up to 25 pounds on a little wagon.
Its inventor, Henry Thorne, says he uses it at home to carry the dirty dishes back to the kitchen. It can be preset to do tasks at particular times, even to come into your room and wake you up with a song in the morning.
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Which means, you can see the robot on the screen, and no heavy programming is required to manipulate it. You don't even have to know much about computers.
"You have to be able to turn your PC on. You have to be able to install the software, but that's about it," he says.
Obviously "Cye" is primarily still a toy, but it's a first step. "Cye" weighs 9 pounds and comes in orange, black and green, and yellow.
Thorne trained at the Robotics Institute at Carnegie-Mellon and spent time at General Motors doing robotics work before going out on his own. He got a grant to build "Cye" and worked on it for 10 years.
Now he's selling the result, about five a week, through his Web site www.personalrobots.com . As of last week, he had sold 128.
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