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[DPRG] Re: DPRGlist Digest, Vol 39, Issue 5

Subject: [DPRG] Re: DPRGlist Digest, Vol 39, Issue 5
From: Chris J. Kiick ckiick at austin.rr.com
Date: Sun Aug 12 20:45:50 CDT 2007

Date: Sat, 11 Aug 2007 13:59:31 -0500
From: "Randy M. Dumse" <rmd at newmicros.com>
> Anyway, there are many possibilities. Who is working on them
> today? To me it seems the market place is rather static, quiet.
> Maybe breakthroughs will happen, which are just out of sight,
> but I have to wonder if we as the robot enthusiasts aren't
> making our voices heard, that we want better sensors to build
> better robots.

I think the problem with good robot parts (not just sensors) has a few 
causes.  First of all, let's face it: we're cheapskates.  We don't buy 
parts because they give the absolute best performance, we buy what we 
can afford that will do the job.  So someone who sells to the robotics 
market has to sell lots of cheap units, each with a small profit. 
Obviously it's easier to sell fewer, more expensive units.  Some places 
do just that - and my usual reaction is sticker shock.

Another problem is standards. There aren't any.  How can you do an 
apples-to-apples comparison of two sensors, when it is almost impossible 
to swap out the parts - that it without re-working both the hardware and 
software you spent so much time crafting in the first place.  Everything 
is custom. That make it much harder to vote with your dollar.

Plus, the word 'robotics' seems to conjure up high-dollar images of 
advanced technology.  Maybe instead of demanding good 'robot' sensors, 
we should get in line with everyone else who wants good affordable 
sensors period. I mean, could the entire robotics market have gotten 
someone to produce a blue-tooth enabled, battery powered multi-axis 
accelerometer with built-in storage for less than $100? Nintendo did - 
they had the market pull. If only we had worked with them to produce a 
more modular and hackable version of the wiimote.

One bit of hope is that good parts are out there. They just show up in 
unusual places.  Like paper-towel dispensers or iPhones or Spy Gear 
toys.  Keep your eyes open, and then ask yourself "where did THEY get 
their sensors?"

Chris J. Kiick
Robotic hobbyist and hard core computer geek.

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