Promos and Contests
our entrepreneurial, technology-adept, future-minded, and innovation-oriented
Free Advance Copies of Singularity is Near
speaker and internationally-renowned futurist Ray Kurzweil
will present free signed advance copies of his upcoming book, The
Singularity is Near, to
the first 200 registrants at Accelerating Change 2005. Additional
copies will also be available for sale to conference participants.
of 2005's most anticipated new books, The Singularity is Near
be released nationally four days after our conference. It extensively
makes the provocative case for accelerating and increasingly human-surpassing
technological and computer advances in coming decades, and proposes a
global "phase transition" circa 2040 where many forms of higher
human thinking may be exceeded by global computing systems.
argues these systems will be seen not as separate from us, but as our
increasingly personalized electronic extensions. If true, how can we ensure
this will be an economically productive, socially stabilizing, and individually
empowering transition? What are the major risks to be avoided? How do
we protect the freedoms of those not interested in participating in this
"digital future?" What might prevent or delay this scenario?
will have ample opportunity to explore these issues in an extended Q&A
with Ray at AC2005, moderated by science radio personality Moira
Gunn, host of NPR’s Tech
Nation. Mr. Kurzweil is an inductee of the National Inventors
Hall of Fame, a winner of the Lemelson-MIT prize and the National Medal
of Technology, and the founder of nine very successful technology companies.
His internationally best-selling 1999 book, The
Age of Spiritual Machines: When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence
has been published in nine languages.
a Free Roomba for Your 100-Word Robotics Idea
pioneer iRobot has donated
five Roombas to Accelerating
We will give these
ingenious machines to the authors of the five best 100-word (or less)
answers to the question "What's Next in Commercial or Consumer
Robotics?". Submissions must be made by AC2005 attendees
by 2pm on Sunday, Sept 18th, the last day of the conference.
Your very brief, paragraph-length
ideas can propose a new commercial or consumer robot, a new feature for
a future Roomba, an untapped application or client base, a new technology,
or any other innovation you think needs to be or will soon be addressed.
You can discuss research, development, production, marketing, pricing,
or any other aspect of the business cycle. Your time horizon can be as
short as next year and should be limited to ten years. All ideas are released
to the public domain.
The five winningest
ideas will be picked anonymously (and subjectively) by our panel of judges
on Sunday afternoon. Winners or their delegates must be present to win,
multiple wins per person allowed. Winning and honorable mention ideas
will be forwarded to Colin Angle, Rodney Brooks,
Helen Greiner, and the other smart folks at iRobot after
our event, along with email contacts for the submitters (if provided).
Are you an AC2005
registrant? Want to share your thoughts on what could or should happen
next in this important space? Send your 100 word entries to mail(at)accelerating(dot)org,
or fill them out when you arrive at the conference. No more than five
entries per AC2005 registrant, please. Can you make a clean sweep?
Robotics Idea Contest Winners — Top Five Ideas
Out of a field of exceptional submissions, our judges (John,
Jerry, Iveta) picked ideas that seemed both socially useful and executable
near term without inordinate R&D expenditure. We were looking for
the low hanging fruit of next gen consumer and commercial robotics. Here
are our top five picks. Each of these received a Roomba Discovery:
Acceptance Bot. Sibley Verbeck, Washington, DC
"Who doesn't need a bot that, while you are at work, 1)
answers the door, 2) signs for the package, and 3) brings it inside [or
simply secures the package next to your door/mailbox]." UPS [FedEx,
eBay] should subsidize this since they alone would save millions in re-delivery
isn't most people's traditional conception of a bot, but it would be in
South Africa, where even street lights are called "robots".
Think of the efficiency increase this invention would add to our increasingly
networked economy. Perhaps the cheapest and most space-efficient solution
might be a large kevlar/steel mesh bag with optional alarm attached to
it. The bag could be mounted on the wall next to your door or down by
your mailbox. It would need a keypad-opened lock and might be mounted
high to minimize the chance of children somehow getting into it. It should
have plenty of air holes. For bags used next to apartment mailboxes, the
display should indicate an expiration date, when the bag can be emptied
and reused by the same service if the goods aren't picked up (a notice
would be placed in the owner's mailbox or on their door that a bag was
filled for them). The outside label should have an 800 number and website
you can visit for the code to open the bag when you give the system your
Snow and Ice Bot. Patrick Kenny, Marina Del Rey, CA
"A device to clean the snow and ice from sidewalks, driveways,
and patios. It would also be able to put down salt from a reservoir."
Comment: This could be a huge time and labor saver for
many folks in northern climes. It would plug in and recharge on the porch
as necessary. It could be made pretty bulletproof and long-lasting. You'd
probably want perimeter sensors that laid out the bot's patrol area, and
with an ice sensor it could self-determine its necessary activity level.
Pool Surface Skimmer Bot ("Skimba"). Paul Clarke, Sunnyvale,
CA. Runner-up: Antoine van de Ven, Utrecht, Netherlands.
"Like Roomba, a robot that would clean the surface of the pool by
finding floating debris (insects, leaves, dirt) and collecting it."
Comment: Typical pool skimmer traps do a poor job of
clearing floating debris from the center of the body of water. Swimmers
typically have to skim the surface of their pool for icky debris before
swimming, and pool surfaces get particularly bad in rural environments.
The same problem exists in decorative and fishponds. A Skimba, designed
to sense floating debris, pick it up, and dock and disgorge into the wall-mounted
skimmer trap would keep the surface sparkling clean (and could be set
to discriminate lily pads if used in ponds). These could be solar operated.
Imaging having a small swarm of these robotic waterbugs. In addition to
skimming they could chase or fight each other, change colors at night,
submerge temporarily, and do other cool things. Ideally the navigation
package would be customized by kids, voiding the warranty of course. With
a single remote control signal they might all scoot over to the trap like
little ducklings, so you could swim any time without having them in the
Plant Watering Bot ("Greenba"). Raymond Blackwood, Phoenix,
you add oxygen and greenery to your house, patios, and gardens without
having to water. Gets water and nutrients from a reservoir, has moisture
receptors in the plant pots or in the Greenba arm."
Comment: Plastic tubing is already used to run through
the house for indoor automatic watering systems, but that has its own
problems, including standing water in the tubes, which can breed microbes
if the water is nutrified. Combined with some good sensor packages, Greenba
functionality might be a clever upgrade to a deluxe Roomba that is already
patrolling a house to keep it clean. The marginal cost and ease of adding
extra potted plants to your living environment, once you have a Roomba/Greenba,
might also be lower and easier than adding more tubing to your floors,
assuming you could put the expensive sensors on the Greenba rather than
in the pots. There would probably be accidents with early models but some
folks would be willing to live with that for the fun factor.
Bot. Frank Paynter, Oregon, WI. Runner-up: Steve Harris, Rancho Cucamonga,
"Both chases and allows itself to be chased by cats and dogs in the
house. Must be designed to be playful but not threatening. After a good
chase can open a treat compartment and give out a pet snack."
Comment: This seemed to us to have good social value.
If the platform were open, it could also be a great source of programming
practice for the coming generation, as well as add to the enjoyment of
anyone who has pets (We'd love to see this used with pet therapy in a
nursing home, for example). iRobot might partner with Lego MindStorms
on this, and the entry level unit could open up the next generation of
higher functionality playbots.
Robotics Idea Contest Honorable Mentions — Ten Clever Ideas
more great ideas for bots we'd like to see soon. These were also submitted
to the folks at iRobot, along with email addresses of the submitters where
Single Window Cleaning Bot, Keith Spencer, Tucson, AZ
"A window washing robot with two halves, each being magnetic and
affixing to the reverse side of the window. Binding the two together magnetically
would allow the bot to keep traction against the window without falling
off, and make it possible to wash both sides of the window at the same
Comment: A clever idea for keeping traction, as glass
is not a magnetic insulator. If the bots could be designed small, quiet,
and energy-efficient, they could be kept permanently on all your car and
home windows, and crawl all over them randomly at slow speeds, perhaps
only at night. It's possible that if they were designed to dust only,
they would be able to keep your glass permanently clean without scratching
it, and never need to use water. Or they could get water occasionally
from a reservoir if necessary. More research is needed here.
Multi Window Cleaning Bot, John Smart, Los Angeles, CA
"Hangs from skyscrapers, windbreaks, and other large glass walls
on a self adjusting safety tether that includes power and water. Cleans
and dries the glass significantly cheaper than human window washers."
Comment: A potential big business, but it could take
some serious resources to make the system work. The cable supplying the
water and power would have to be ingeniously light for tall buildings,
and should be able to push a small bolus of water along into a reservoir
on the robot. The cable would become too heavy if it had to hold water
all the way up. Early models might only be able to do ten or so floors,
keeping them out of the most lucrative skyscraper market for a while.
Car Wash Bot, Lisa Tansey, San Diego, CA
"Robot that screws into the end of a water hose and carries its own
soap and drying brushes."
Comment: If you can get a hose from the front yard faucet
out to your car, as many car owners can, and can magnetically attach the
hose to a central place in the car's roof, the car wash bot could slowly
climb all over the metal parts of the car and release just enough water
and soap to wash and dry your car over the course of several hours (or
an evening). The hose might not be filled entirely with water but could
be a "smart hose" that can request boluses of water as it needs
them, and should be small, light, and slippery. You should be able to
quick-change it with your regular hose when you get the bot out of your
garage. You'd probably want a car antenna that retracts automatically
when you shut the car off. You could use the Car Wash Bot in combination
with the micro-sized window washing bots (see other idea) which would
keep your car windows permanently clean. Most people wouldn't be willing
to pay more than a couple of hundred for a Car Wash Bot, so it might be
challenging to do this economically for several more years.
Toilet and Sanitary Bidet Bot, Alan Hromas, Phoenix, AZ. Runner
up: Jim Pinto, San Diego, CA.
"A heated toilet seat which senses the dirty bowl and extends brushes
to clean it. Perpetual and sanitary [including bidet]. Has a reservoir
for cleaning chemicals."
Comment: Great idea, already exists in Japan. Now can
we see it in the U.S. soon? Let's also include a self-sanitizing bidet
(rump water fountain) with a green light to indicate it is sanitized,
as that is a major time saver for people, as the French know, and one
we often forget about here in the U.S.
Drain Cleaner Bot, Raymond Blackwood, Phoenix, AZ
"Water proof bot that crawls and cleans clogged pipes and drains.
Has a great light and video camera so you can see what it's doing as you
feed it down into the trap, etc."
Comment: Great idea that could be relatively near term
for commercial users (roto rooters, etc.). Consumer units should follow
a few years later. There are already military versions of this.
Car Audio Wi-Fi Bot, Todd Logan, Palo Alto, CA
"Wi-Fi system that automatically broadcasts to your car's audio hard
drive any audio content that is downloaded from the internet into your
personal computer's podcast/music management/RSS system (iTunes, etc.)."
Comment: Not a conventional description for a bot, but
this has great educational value. This would be easy for folks who can
park their car in their garage or nearby outside, within Wi-Fi range.
As you park your car, green signal bars on your dash could tell you if
you have good signal with your home computer. If you have an apartment
far from your car you could set up portable (and public access) mesh repeater
systems that would broadcast new audio to your car in small bursts when
the spectrum is clear (packet radio style).
Fluff and Hang Laundry Bot, Jonathan Beard, San Lorenzo, CA
"Combined with a washer and dryer this bot system would
pull your warm and wrinkle-free clothes from the dryer and fluff, hang,
and in later models even fold and iron them."
Comment: If you add small locator tags to the preferred
"grab points" (where you want them to hang from) in all your
clothes, you could make a dryer today where a robotic arm could go in
and pick out, shake off, and hang up all your clothes on rollable racks
and in open-top drawers next to your dryer. These racks and drawers could
then be taken to your closet as is. Until we can develop an affordable
foldbot, which might take much longer, many of us would be willing to
ditch our conventional drawers and get all our clothes (socks, underwear,
shorts, shirts, pants) off of hanging racks and open-top drawers that
we keep in our closet. We might need a bit more space to store our clothes,
but it would be a huge time saver.
Remote Control Fire (and Security) Bot, Brad Templeton, Palo
"A bot which, when the fire alarm goes off, can signal a teleoperator
to take control, drive it to the fire, and spray it with a fire extinguisher."
Comment: This useful bot could be used not just for fire
but for other security issues (break-ins, etc.). Would make sense as a
high-end addition for existing home security companies. Getting video
of the perps stealing your stuff might be a significant deterrent. Being
able to remotely spray them with indelible ink (as is used in money packs
stolen from banks) would be even more interesting. These might make homes
in high crime areas a lot safer.
Mattress Massage Bot, John Smart, Los Angeles, CA
"Shiatsu massage mattress for your bed, replacing and elevating by
6-12 inches your existing mattress. Gives you 5-50 mins of auto-timed
relaxing massage as you are falling asleep or waking up."
Comment: I'm ready to buy one of these now. Manufacturers,
are you listening? :)
Mimic and Mood Elevator/Comfort Bot, Raymond Blackwood, Phoenix,
"A teddy bear like doll that listens, snuggles, and watches your
face. It can mimic your facial expressions, caricature them, and respond
in ways that cheer you up."
Comment: If you frown a lot or look stressed or serious,
the mimic bot could exaggerate those expressions to help you see that
you might want to lighten up. If you laughed or flashed it a quick smile
it might go ecstatic and tumble around on the floor. This would be creepy
for some but others might use it to improve their mood or reprogram their
reserved, brooding, or outwardly dour personas.
To Our Other Honorable Contestants
Thanks to everyone who participated. We received sixty four other very
intriguing ideas for this contest. If your idea wasn't picked as a winner
or honorable mention above, we apologize. I'm sure it was nevertheless
brilliant and practical and will soon materialize. We hope you'll submit
again at our next contest!
22-27, San Francisco, CA
6-9, Reston, VA
12-14, Minneapolis, MN
6-9, San Jose, CA
Second Life Community Convention
Oct 8-9, New York, NY