Remember a couple weeks ago when we were complaining about how we were in desperate need of some juicy new robot rumors? Dyson (which obviously takes most of its cues from IEEE Spectrum) has come through with a tantalizingly confusing video hyping some...thing...that will be unveiled this Thursday, 4 September. We'll take the video completely to pieces and see what we can see.

First, here's the Dyson video:

And some background on Dyson's robots here, and here.

Now, let's see what we can make of the thing Dyson is working on based on screen captures from the vid:

Looks like Dyson was trying to decide how to power their mystery device. It's a bit hard to read (anyone have a 4K display they can take advantage of?), but looks like under "Pros" for Rotors they've got "partial palindrome" (always a plus), whereas "Cons" include "Risk of Decapitation" and "Atmosphere Dependent." Hmm. Vacuum of space, possibly? On the Thruster side, they seem to be looking at rockets, which I'm personally in favor of to power anything, anywhere, anytime, even if there is a risk of weaponization.

Is that some sort of hovercraft with two big fans at the back? If so, what the heck is on the front?

OMG IT'S MOVING WHAT IS IT. And more importantly, why is there someone with a big metal dome on their head?

To me, this looks a lot like a simulation of a round robot traversing a room in a pattern that implies solid localization (unlike a Roomba).

I have no idea what that is. But it scares me.

Tank treads? Sure, why not!

But let's get serious. I think that most of this video was a prank, with the possible exception of the simulation, which I believe may be real. It shows a robot with a round form factor traversing a room in a back and forth pattern. What else do we know? This picture was posted to Dyson's Facebook page:

That appears to be a panoramic camera. More importantly, there's a distinctive design of the plastic pieces that seems to match a recent Dyson patent image, posted to the Dyson Facebook page by a user:

I can't find the Dyson patent that this exact image comes from, but there are two very similar patents here and here. Another pic, showing the front of what looks to be a slightly different (earlier?) version:

What's missing from this is any information about sensors or software, although Dyson also has patents for docks

This is completely, entirely, 100 percent speculation except for the bits that come from Dyson itself. To see if we're in the ballpark, or in a different ballpark on Mars or something, we'll have to wait for the official release on Thursday.

The Conversation (0)

How Robots Can Help Us Act and Feel Younger

Toyota’s Gill Pratt on enhancing independence in old age

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An illustration of a woman making a salad with robotic arms around her holding vegetables and other salad ingredients.
Dan Page

By 2050, the global population aged 65 or more will be nearly double what it is today. The number of people over the age of 80 will triple, approaching half a billion. Supporting an aging population is a worldwide concern, but this demographic shift is especially pronounced in Japan, where more than a third of Japanese will be 65 or older by midcentury.

Toyota Research Institute (TRI), which was established by Toyota Motor Corp. in 2015 to explore autonomous cars, robotics, and “human amplification technologies,” has also been focusing a significant portion of its research on ways to help older people maintain their health, happiness, and independence as long as possible. While an important goal in itself, improving self-sufficiency for the elderly also reduces the amount of support they need from society more broadly. And without technological help, sustaining this population in an effective and dignified manner will grow increasingly difficult—first in Japan, but globally soon after.

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