Robots in our midst

I had the opportunity to join a meetup of the Colorado Robotics Association last week. We at Zebulon Solutions have done some electronics design work recently for a local robotics company so we were curious as to what else was going on in the world of robots. As an occasional writer of science fiction in my copious free time, I, like most of us perhaps, have a vision of near humanoid robots walking across the room, either firing laser cannons or serving drinks.  While the former is still science fiction and the latter does in fact exist: Gamma II Robotics offers such a product.  Meet Basil:

Most robots, however are much, much more mundane, used in factories and industrial facilities, machine shops and warehouses.

But still incredibly interesting.  I talked with folks doing industrial robots and those doing robots for toys.  Gamma II is also working on a security robot for industrial locations and our friends at RoadNarrows have a general purpose robotic arm  that  is low enough in cost to be used in many diverse applications. Meet  Hekateros.


Robotics is also a slightly unusual market as there is a large  market for exciting toys for hobbyists that is highly visible, and also an even larger market for boring industrial robots that is all but invisible. And tucked in between are serious researchers and visionaries, a sampling of whom I sat next to that morning, who are working on combining the two into that century-old dream, robots are both exciting and useful.

For us at Zebulon Solutions, we’re excited about having the opportunity to help design and industrialize a whole new generation of robotic products that will not only do cool and useful things but also be highly manufacturable and cost effective. And maybe I’ll finally learn the answer to a question I did ask that morning but was never really answered: what constitutes a robot?

Shameless plus: National Robotics Week is April 7 – 15, 2012.  See ya there.




  • John Steele

    Hi Chuck,

    Nice summary of the breakfast. You may recall that there were several chuckles around the room when you asked that question about robots. The reason being that it’s much harder to define than one might think! Of course there is the definition, for an industrial robot, from the Robotics Industry Association industrial robot (noun)
    1. an automatically controlled, reprogrammable multipurpose manipulator programmable in three or more axes which may be either fixed in place or mobile for use in industrial automation applications {},
    but as you point out we have a vision of some humanoid machine. My working definition is: A robot is a machine (that does work, in the physics sense), that has the following subsystems perception, manipulation, and decision making, and is capable of adapting to its environment, and/or being reprogrammed to do different tasks. Note that one of the problems with this definition is that a CNC tool would probably qualify 🙁

    Another approach is to follow the lead of Justice Potter Stewart “I know a robot when I see one” {}

  • Muhammad

    Yay, looks fun. And by fun i mean serene and cmlniag as only the countryside can be…How was the wedding or did that not happen yet? I kinda wanna go to Korea now… look what you did!

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