WHAT THE HOALOHA?
Tandy Trower, who helped launch Microsoft Robotics Studio back in 2006, has started a
new robotics company called Hoaloha Robotics. The goal? Affordable ($5,000–$10,000), socially
assistive (i.e., elder care) robots in the next three to five years. Trower envisions a robot able
to do all of the conventional remote monitoring and pill reminder stuff, but also be able to
assist with movement, object retrieval, and potentially provide some degree of intelligent social
Trower believes he can make an important contribution by developing a common interface
and software that will make assistive robots easy to use and customize with applications —
similar to the way Apple standardized the interface and application model for smartphones.
“This is what primarily I believe is holding back most of the industry right now. It’s not that
robots can’t be built, it’s that nobody has defined the software that’s going to turn robots into
useful appliances,” Trower commented.
“The components exist; it’s not difficult to build such a platform,” he continued. “What people have lacked is the ability
to envision what the right package should contain and, most important, what the applications and user interface should be.”
In order to be an effective assistive robot, the Hoaloha platform is going to have to be very independent. This
specifically is what Hoaloha is going to be focusing on, partnering with other companies for hardware development.
See this “friendly” looking piece of equipment? Just stick your
head in the middle and a tiny robot will fix your eye problems. Those
giant coils are very precise magnetic field generators, and they’re
capable of manipulating a half-millimeter long microbot with a fine
enough touch to get it to fix clots in blood vessels in your eyes. The
whole system is called OctoMag, and the primary advantage that it
offers (besides the robotic fine manipulation that makes other assistive
surgical systems so promising) is that the microbot is completely
untethered. So, instead of having to shove a bunch of needles into
your eyeballs and dig around, one single needle can deposit the robot
which does its thing with minimal invasiveness and then comes back out via the same needle.
TO THE MOON
Japan is planning to invest 200 billion yen for a robotic base near
the south pole of the Moon by 2020. For the project, rover robots
(some of which weigh about 300 kg) will be exploring the Moon’s
inner structure and gather rock samples. In order to accomplish these
tasks, they will be equipped with solar panels and seismographs, as well
as HD cameras and arms. The government is also planning to establish
a power system based on solar power and lithium-ion batteries.
Another interesting detail is their plan for an HDTV broadcast from
This unmanned lunar base is basically a precursor for Japan’s
manned lunar base project scheduled to start in 2030.
Japan also plans to send a humanoid to the moon by 2015.
According to the Osaka edition of the YomiuriOnline newspaper
the “Lacuna Oriented Higashiosaka Important Conjunction,” there’s a
plan to build a two legged robot, Madio-Kun, or humanoid to be fully
operational for space travel and specifically to be operated on the
surface of the Moon by 2015.
26 SERVO 11.2010