Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Enon: Is this the best the industry can do?

I just ran across an associated press article (reprinted here in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette) about Fujitsu's latest robot offering.

The robot in question is intended to guide people around stores, assisting them in finding what they are looking for and helping out. The need is especially great in Japan, where the so-called "silver age" is rapidly approaching as more and more of the workforce retires. Robots that handle simple tasks like this will free up the shrinking workforce to handle more complex interactions than "where is the restroom" and "do you sell rugs?", which is a good thing.

However this article disturbs me. The article states that the offering price for this robot is US$54,000 for the hardware. It seems that the software is extra, and Fujitsu refuses to even provide estimates.

Now Enon isn't a crappy robot by any stretch. He's got some very cool abilities and some very intelligent design features. but we're talking about a 4 foot tall wheeled robot with two 'paws' that can lift a tiny bit more than a pound. Each arm provides 5 degrees of freedom (for reference: the human arm has 7 degrees of freedom, but the hand contains an additional 14 joints to provide dexterity, none of which Enon possesses).

I guess I am just surprised that the opening price here is $54,000. That seems high for the amount of technology (sans software) involved in this robot. I do note that Fujitsu hopes to drive the price down to $18k if they go to full scale production though, which is encouraging.

For more information on Enon, check out Fujitsu's full press release.

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