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Tech News

Adorable home robot Kuri is being discontinued

July 25, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Kuri

Cute mechanical companion Kuri is no more. In a blog post published today, manufacturer Mayfield Robotics said that operations have been paused while it evaluates the company’s future, and that pre-orders of the adorable home robot will not be filled (all pre-order deposits will be refunded).

Mayfield Robotics, part of the Bosch Startup Platform, was established in 2015 with a bold vision to domesticate robots. Kuri was designed to be neither traditionally functional (like a vacuum cleaner), nor educational, but was intended to enter the home as a family member, reading to kids, playing with pets and taking photos of precious family moments.

The first Kuri units were priced at $700 apiece — relatively affordable for the tech involved but nonetheless expensive for a robot that didn’t really do much. Interest in Kuri was high, but pre-orders were low. As Mayfield’s blog post notes, “there was not a business fit within Bosch to support and scale [the] business.” Crowdfunded “social robot” Jibo faced a similar issue, failing to scale as backers hoped it would.

The decision arguably reflects the wider robotics industry. Droids are improving, but putting a cute face on them doesn’t make them useful, and usefulness is what’s going to sell products. Look at virtual assistants on smart speakers, such as Amazon’s Alexa. These have become commonplace in modern homes because they have tangible purpose — and are, of course, considerably more affordable. At this stage in robotics R&D, poor adorable Kuri could never compete.

Tech News

Bosch launches road condition alert service for self-driving vehicles

July 25, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Bosch

Today, Bosch has introduced a predictive road condition service that can help make sure self-driving vehicles remain safe even on wet and icy roads. The company says the technology can give automated vehicles that seat-of-the-pants feel — you know that sensation when you’re on the driver’s seat that tells you the road’s condition? That one. Bosch management board member Dr. Dirk Hoheisel says the service can alert AVs to hazards “before critical situations can develop.”

The technology takes multiple possible weather forecast scenarios from Finnish company Foreca into consideration, so a vehicle that uses it knows how and where it can drive autonomously. Bosch says this can prevent vehicles from having to hand over controls to a human driver at the first sign of poor road conditions. Of course, that only applies to vehicles that still have steering wheels and systems that haven’t reached Level 4 or 5 autonomous driving capabilities yet.

When Bosch rolls out its road condition alert service in 2020, it will rely entirely on Foreca’s weather information. In the future, though, it will also take data shared by self-driving cars using the technology into account. The system will upload temperatures inside and outside vehicles, as well as other information such as whether their windshield wipers are in use and how many times their anti-skid system got activated, to Bosch’s cloud. In other words, the technology is bound to become more accurate and reliable as more and more automated vehicles make their way to public roads.

Tech News

Daimler and Bosch will use NVIDIA to power self-driving taxis

July 10, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Putting self-driving cars on the streets requires a lot of computing power. Most test cars on the road have PC towers in their trunk that take up space, suck up power and produce a lot of heat. With that in mind Daimler (the parent company of Mercedes-Benz) and Bosch have announced they will be using the NVIDIA Drive Pegasus self-driving AI platform.

The NVIDIA system can tackle an impressive 320 trillion operations per second. All the parties involved in this new venture hope this will be enough to power level 4 and 5 vehicles which will be used as robo-taxis.

Daimler and Bosch announced back in April they would be teaming up to develop self-driving taxis. The two companies had said they wanted to get these vehicles on the road within five years. With today’s news, it looks like they’re on track with that.

The first of the cars using NVIDIA’s AI platform (which the Daimler says will be Mercedes S-Class sedans and V-Class vans) will start road testing in a Silicon Valley city starting in the second half of 2019. The two companies are still negotiating with the city and will announce the location at a later date. The final version (or at least ready for a larger general rollout) should be ready in the first part of the next decade. A bit vague timeline wise, but within the goal already set forth by the two companies.

In addition, to supply the self-driving AI platform, NVIDIA will work with Bosch and Daimler to build the system necessary for the self-driving ride-hailing service. During the pilot phase, the shuttles will stick to a few predetermined routes.

We should start seeing more pilots like this one in the coming years. Waymo already has an Early Rider program up and running in the Phoenix, Arizona area. Uber, Lyft, GM and others are all working towards their own self-driving taxi services. With the initial cost of level 4 and level 5 vehicles being beyond the reach of most consumers (because of the sensors and technology embedded), it makes sense financially to have these cars act as taxis where they’ll be able to recoup the tech investment.

Daimler noted that it’s Mercedes division has been working on a foundation for autonomous driving for a while. That includes last year’s Intelligent World Drive. The data gathered from that event and the subsequent research done in its wake will help the partnership build parameters for cars in each market.

This isn’t the first time Bosch and Mercedes have teamed up for an autonomous car. Back in 1986 they were both part of the Prometheus project that included an autonomous car codenamed VITA (Vision Information Technology Application). Except this time they’re going to have to move a whole lot faster because if mobility plays out the way automakers think it will, being one of the first to have a ride-hailing system on the road could be