bots IN BRIEF
SERVO 01.2016 17
Amazon Echo is a voice-activated, cloud-connected wireless speaker that can be like a personal assistant. Think of Echo as Siri for your home.
Echo — which is designed around your voice — answers to “Alexa” and
can tell you scores of a game, read a book, play music, or check your calendar.
If you have a smart home, Echo can turn off your lights and integrate with
other smart technology.
Bob Paradiso, however, wondered if he “could push Echo’s utility a little
further.” He certainly did. Paradiso turned an electric wheelchair into a voice-controlled wheelchair using Echo, a Raspberry Pi, and Arduino Uno.
Echo thinks it’s turning lights on and off, but it’s really controlling the
wheelchair. Paradiso says, “Alexa, turn on left 4” and the wheelchair spins. He
then says, “Alexa, turn on forward 4” and the wheelchair moves forward.
Pretty damn cool.
TOYOTA DRIVES NEW $1 BILLION
From Tokyo, Toyota recently announced that it is investing US $1 billion over the next five years to
establish a new R&D arm headquartered in Silicon
Valley and focused on artificial intelligence and
robotics. The Toyota Research Institute (TRI) plans to
hire hundreds of engineers to staff a main facility in
Palo Alto, CA near Stanford University, and a second
facility located near MIT in Cambridge, MA.
Former DARPA program manager, Dr. Gill Pratt
(an executive technical advisor at Toyota) was named
CEO of TRI, which will begin operations in January.
Toyota president, Akio Toyoda said in a press
conference that the company pursues innovation and
new technologies “to make life better for our customers
and society as a whole,” adding that he wanted to “work
with Gill not just because he’s an amazing researcher
and engineer, but because I believe his goals and
motivations are the same as ours.”
TRI’s initial focus is AI for cars and robots. Dr. Pratt detailed some of that strategy back in 2015 when Toyota
announced a research collaboration initiative with Stanford and MIT — a first step in the company’s big push into AI
TRI has a broad mandate with lots of flexibility, and Dr. Pratt said they’ll be
exploring research on numerous fronts. He also emphasized that — as part of its
mission — the organization will strive to bridge the gap between fundamental
research and product development.
Photo-montage: IEEE Spectrum; Photos: Toyota.
From left: iRoad, a three-wheeled electric concept that Toyota is testing in some
cities; the Human Support Robot, designed to help people at home; and an
autonomous test vehicle that Lexus (a Toyota division) demonstrated last month.
Dr. Gill Pratt — the former DARPA
program manager responsible for the
DARPA Robotics Challenge — will
lead the new Toyota Research
Institute in Silicon Valley.