bots IN BRIEF
(NOT) CAMERA SHY
How did William Burrard-Lucas — a UK wildlife
photographer — get this close-up shot and survive to tell the
story? He used a remote-controlled robotic camera, of course!
It's called BeetleCam, and it's basically a DSLR camera
mounted on a six-wheel mobile platform that he can control
from a safe distance. Burrard-Lucas created the first version of
BeetleCam a few years ago to take close-up, wide-angle
photographs of dangerous African animals in the wild. (Emphasis
Now, he's upgraded his original BeetleCam, building new
models with more advanced capabilities including HD video
recording, wireless "live view," and remotely operated camera
tilt. He also constructed an armored, lion-proof carapace to
(hopefully) protect the equipment. Last year, he took the new
camera bots to Kenya to photograph the lions of the Masai Mara.
SHOW ME THE MONEY
In news that will send a ripple of excitement through the robotics
community, French robot maker Aldebaran has reportedly sold a majority
stake in its business for about US $100 million.
The Financial Times reports that the buyer — Japan's Softbank — will
provide the financial backing Aldebaran needs to "bring robots into the
mainstream consumer market."
According to the Financial Times story, Softbank is understood to have
paid about $100m for more than an 80 percent stake in the business, and
will invest another $40m to $50m to accelerate development. Softbank
bought out existing shareholders in the company, including Intel Capital,
CDC Innovation, iSource, and Crédit Agricole Private Equity. Intel Capital
had only recently become an investor in a $13m fundraising round last summer.
Although Softbank has not previously been involved in robotics, Masayoshi Son — the company’s chief executive — is
interested in addressing a number of societal problems, for example, backing the development of green energy in Japan.
Securing care for an aging population is in line with this.
This is huge news for Aldebaran — famous for its advanced humanoid robots — but an even bigger deal for the robotics
field which has long been trying to prove to investors that there's money to be made in robots. Though industrial robotics is a
multibillion dollar sector, consumer and service robotics remain relatively small markets. Hopefully, the Aldebaran deal will
show investors that robots can not only be cool, but profitable too.
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