Fuseproject’s new robot Moxie is what happens when AI meets Pixar

With all kids staying home, parents are running out of ideas to keep them occupied and most importantly, emotionally healthy during these crazy times. Some are lucky to have siblings or a pet, but there are many kids out there without a companion that is not working from home. Fuseproject has designed a brilliantly adorable robot, Moxie, who is going to be your child’s new best friend! Trust me, parents are going to love this one (hint: homeschooling feature) and even though I am not a parent or a child, I really would like to have Moxie too so it doesn’t get too lonely in quarantine.

Moxie was born to give children (between the ages 6 and 9) an emotionally aware pal who also came equipped with teaching capabilities – a dream come true and even more so given the current times. Technology and design are proving to be the saving grace for not only essential workers but also for everyone staying home. Fuseproject is taking this opportunity to create positive human-machine interaction for the next generation. “Moxie, a revolutionary animate companion designed in partnership with Embodied, Inc. that promotes social, emotional, and cognitive learning for children across the ability spectrum—from neurotypical to neurodivergent—through play-based learning and interaction,” says the team. It is built to be so smart that children can even whisper secrets to communicate with Moxie through the teardrop-shaped ears and microphone on either side of its head – one of its most distinctive physical traits that encourages a meaningful bond. The Pixar-ish robot has an all-star group of AI investors like Amazon, Intel, Sony, and Toyota including Chief Creative Officer Craig Allen previously worked at Jim Henson and Disney.

The $1,500 price tag comes with the skills of experts in child development, engineering, technology, game design, entertainment, and designers who poured in their best to create Moxie. This resulted in immaculate features like facial expression, overall shape, color palette, and exterior materiality to encourage prolonged interest and optimize fluid social interaction. The team focused on balancing the details to inspire engagement and make sure children resonated with the robot. “All its expressive and endearing features—including the ears, head/playful projection tip, speakers, and arm/hand/finger details—come together to tell an otherworldly story about Moxie as a friendly companion from The Global Robotics Laboratory (G.R.L.) sent out as a robot ambassador with a mission to learn what it means to be a good friend to humans,” elaborates the team on why they chose the forms and functions they did for the robot. The expressions truly are so cute it almost looks like a cross between a robot and an elf!

Moxie radiates a playful persona with a positive character, unlike most AI robots we’ve seen so far. Children will learn and safely practice essential life skills such as turn-taking, eye contact, active listening, emotion regulation, empathy, relationship management, and problem-solving. Sure, parents can teach that too – but is a child more likely to listen to parents instructing them or through a smart ‘toy’? Children are always curious about the world around them, now more than ever they have more questions about it. Moxie steps into the picture to help them comprehend the marvels of technology at their level of understanding. Will Moxie be the robot that changes how we feel about their kind?

You can build your own Black Mirror-style robot dog for roughly $750

Charlie Brooker, the creator of popular dystopian sci-fi series Black Mirror said he was taking a hiatus from the show… his reason? The world’s too messed up for him to be able to produce a show that literally depicts messed up worlds. Where’s the boundary between sci-fi and reality when you really can’t tell the difference between the two anymore? Remember the Black Mirror episode titled ‘Metalhead’ with the robot dogs that hunted humans? Well, Singapore’s introduced human-monitoring robot canines to their parks to check on people and warn them to socially distance. Sounds weird? Sounds like something you’d see on TV? Well, that’s life now… and apparently students at Stanford have reverse engineered the popular robotic canine and made their DIY kit open source. For anywhere between $600-$900, you can build and assemble your own bionic pupper… Don’t worry though, this one’s harmless.

The Stanford Pupper Quadriped Robot requires a fair bit of technical expertise, though, and can take anywhere from 4-10 hours to build. The cost of building the robot depends partly on whether you have a few key elements. If you’ve got a Raspberry Pi 4 and a PS4 controller handy, things should be a breeze (resources and code can be found on links available on the Stanford Student Robotics website). You’ll also need a few elements for the frame, like a carbon fiber plate and a few 3D printed PLA parts, although the guys at Stanford make it easy by letting you buy the pre-fab parts from a website. It’s impossible to say if the assembled cyberdog could do your shopping for you, but you could easily have it carry small items like your remote or beer can from one room to another. Just don’t piss it off or turn it sentient.

Designer: Stanford Student Robotics

This V-shaped drone runs on two silent propellers instead of four noisy ones

Why bother with four propellers when two can easily do the job? Developed by Zero Zero Robotics, the V-Coptr Falcon really ushers in a new design direction for drones, because unlike most drones with anywhere from 4-8 propellers, the V-Coptr Falcon cuts the clutter and opts for just two of them. They fold into the body when packed, and outward into a V-shape when ready to use. The propellers come with the ability to change direction, tilting in a way that’s reminiscent of the Boeing V-22 Osprey. With its innovative dual-rotor format, the bi-copter proves to be just as maneuverable as its four-rotor cousins, and even more silent, thanks to its proprietary stealth-mode propellers. The V-Coptr Falcon also comes with an SNPE neural network engine that helps it sense environments in real-time, allowing it to actively recognize and avoid objects and collisions mid-flight. Mounted on the V-Coptr Falcon’s front is a 3-axis mechanical gimbal that holds the drone’s 12-megapixel CMOS-sensor enabled camera that can shoot in 4K, while its industry-leading 50-minute flight time and 7 kilometer HD transmission of recorded footage allows you to fly higher, further, and for longer!

Designer: Zero Zero Robotics

A skeleton-inspired generative designed frame makes this drone incredibly lightweight yet strong

The bones are perhaps the best example of nature’s way of providing a structural framework that’s strong and robust, yet minimal. This same structural framework, if tweaked slightly, can cause humans to break pieces of brick with their fist, while also being light enough to let birds fly… two attributes that the Skeleton Drone looks at attaining through its generative-design skeletal structure.

It would be unrealistic to expect a drone to break through a brick but you get what I’m talking about, right? There aren’t many things that are more painful than a drone that collides with a wall and shatters to smithereens, right? The Skeleton Drone’s structural makeup prevents the creation of those weak-points. Its inherent generative design solves any strength and stress issues, while drastically cutting down on volume. I mean even the drone’s body, which usually comprises a computer, a battery, and a camera, is reduced to a bare minimum, making it both physically and visually light, but just as, if not stronger, than any drones out there on the market!

Designer: Hong Zhi

An autonomous robot that ensures the only thing you do in a bookstore is read

We’re all familiar with autonomous robots. The idea of little robot butlers finishing up all our household chores is simply so inviting. Well, you’ve thought of robots in your homes, but what about robot helpers at bookstores! Large bookstores can be often difficult to maneuver and manage for the employees and the customers. But Naver Labs’ AROUND B promises to handle all of it. AROUND B is a cute compact robot with wheels that will ensure the books are where they are supposed to be.

When a customer enters a bookstore and begins browsing, AROUND B will guide them and carry their chosen books to a seating area, where they can go through their books in peace without having to stand around and shuffle through them. When they’re done browsing and are sure they want to pick up a certain book, they can simply place the book into AROUND B’s storage unit, and the mini robot will carry the book to the cashier! On the other hand, the books that didn’t make the cut and are left behind, AROUND B picks them up and takes them to a common section, wherein the employees can easily gather the books and put them back in their respective section. Now, in my book-loving mind, these little bots are the perfect accessory to my book-laden arms, ensuring I can stay in my cushy spot and exit without worrying about returning the books and not confronting the world outside of my book’s universe!

Minimal, sleek and futuristic, AROUND B is one good looking robot. The various curves and lines on it create a unique aesthetic and to be honest, it almost looks friendly! I guess browsing through a bookstore has never been smoother.

Designer: Kim Seungwoo and Kyumin Ha of Naver Labs

The Gruzovikus is an ‘intelligent’ freightliner truck that transports cargo without a driver

Without context, if you looked at the Gruzovikus, your first instinct would be to wonder why its cockpit is so slim. You’d then notice that the Gruzovikus has no doors… or windows. The Gruzovikus doesn’t need a driver, because it IS the driver. Designed by Art Lebedev Studio, this freight-carrying semi-truck comes with an incredibly slim profile, and is fully autonomous i.e., it doesn’t need a driver operating it, even remotely.

The lack of a designer really informs the Gruzovikus’ design process. It has NO cockpit, allowing it to be a whole lot slimmer than most trucks. It literally looks like a horizontal ‘L’, if you look at its side profile! The absence of a cockpit allows the Gruzovikus to take on a much more streamlined, aerodynamic front, with a single vertical screen that houses all of the truck’s sensors and computers. The slimmer front allows the bed at the back to be longer, giving the truck much more stability as its front axle also bears an equal portion of the load. The Gruzovikus still comes equipped with headlights and taillights that help the truck be visible to pedestrians and drivers around it, conforming to current transportation standards… and naturally, it’s all-electric!

Designer: Art Lebedev Studio

Is resurrecting Google’s BookBot the need of the hour?

Everyone in Silicon Valley is trying to design something straight out of the future. We treat science and technology as the end all be all of our issues and rightfully so, but here is an unpopular opinion – do we REALLY need technology in every aspect of our lives to make it better? A decade ago, robots doing all our tasks were just a thing of movies and today we don’t go a day without interacting with a robot – think about it, even if you call a place there is a 99% chance an automated voice will speak to you first. So when I read about former Google engineers trying to resurrect a robot that was ‘put to rest’, my question was why are they bringing it back? Let’s evaluate what the two sides of this coin…or chip –

Google engineers created BookBot within the company’s Area 120 incubator for experimental products. It is a simple-looking cube-shaped robot that was becoming popular in a California town where it used to pick up books from residents and deliver them back to the Mountain View Library for check-in. Every Thursday, BookBot which has a limit of 5-10 items will come to you and deliver/pick up the books you request on its website. You will be notified via text message when it arrives or you can follow its route with a link shared with you. Safety concerns were taken care of by constant monitoring and a human handler present for the initial phase. The project’s team lead, Christian Bersch, said they are testing the waters of what could be possible for autonomous, electric robots, the problems they can run into and if it is feasible for bigger, more crowded neighborhoods. Ideally, it would help reduce the vehicles on the road, save personal time and help the senior citizens as well as the disabled residents. Who knows, it could also be the new medium to collect second-hand items for charity!

It ran for 4 months much to the delight of kids who tried playing games with it and also for those who love a cool selfie before being shelved. Despite the overwhelmingly positive response from the Mountain Valley residents and the popularity of BookBot, Google seems to want established third-party experts to handle the deliveries while it focuses on advancing in other tech arenas. The primary reason is presumed to be Project Wing, another Google partnership for making drone deliveries that will optimize Google Shopping. However, the two former Google engineers who worked on BookBot and Area 120, Jake Stelman and Christian Bersch, have launched Cartken that is offering low-cost automated delivery with a darker (think about that all-black Spiderman) version of Bookbot because of how well received it was especially by those who have mobility issues.

Now let’s flip the subject, while it brings convenience to a certain demographic, what struck me as an avid real book reader is that this takes away a part of the library experience. Now as much as we might groan about having to go all the way to return a book, we usually always end up browsing for more books, chatting up with community readers and getting recommendations that we otherwise wouldn’t come across. The whole experience of going to the library brings the local community closer – children study together, adults have bookclubs especially those who are retired and older citizens who are not as tech-savvy and still treat books as a source of entertainment. BookBot and Cartken obviously solve an issue by saving time and effort but, like any robot, it takes out the emotion from the activity and can only see through a logistical lens. As we advance, it is vital to keep in mind that technology can very quickly dehumanize us, make us dependent, reduce the EQ that separates us from robots. I am all for robots cleaning up houses or being able to translate what our pets say to our language, but let’s not take away the smaller life experiences which is also how some earn their livelihood – think of the librarians, clerks, even delivery personnel! In a small town, one robot can take over the jobs of many and unknowingly make us detached. We can now carry thousands of books in one device but it will never be the same as smelling an old book from a library and flipping the page. So I ask once again, do we really need robots to do it all?

Designer: Jake Stelman and Christian Bersch

Matternet needs a Senior Industrial Designer!

Matternet is the developer of the world’s leading technology platform for on-demand aerial delivery in urban environments. The company provides its technology platform as a service to healthcare, e-commerce and logistics organizations. In March 2017, Matternet became the first company in the world to be authorized for full operations of drone logistics networks over densely populated areas in Switzerland. Since then, Matternet has executed over 3,000 flights in Zurich, Bern, and Lugano. In May 2018, Matternet was selected to carry out drone logistics operations for US hospitals under the FAA’s drone integration program. In March 2019, Matternet and UPS announced a partnership to provide drone delivery services to US healthcare systems, starting from WakeMed Health in NC. Matternet is based in Mountain View, CA and has 50 employees. Matternet’s investors include Boeing, Daimler, Swiss Post, and Sony.

The M2 Drone by Matternet was authorized by the Swiss aviation authority to carry out logistics operations all over the city. It can carry and support loads of up to 2 kilograms and 4 liters for 20 kilometers.

The Opportunity

Matternet is looking for a Senior Industrial Designer to help craft Matternet’s product vision of autonomous robotic systems. In this position, you will report directly to Matternet’s Head of Design and will make product decisions that span the whole design spectrum, from product vision to the smallest details of their product. As a designer on the design team, you will be expected to recognize as many of the constraints as possible, and have the passion to work within these constraints. You are a highly strategic, detail-oriented and multi-skilled designer. You need to be creative, diligent, humble, excel in uncertainty and live to collaborate in a high-paced environment that values excellence. You will create design quality in all air, ground and digital assets, and be a part of a team that does not follow orthodox boundaries between the design professions and rather puts product design as the guideline.

Requirements

• 7+ years of experience in a product design role.
• A strong portfolio of creative product design illustrating a deep appreciation for aesthetics and creativity.
• Ability and desire to solve complex product design problems and the strategic skills to deliver best-in-class solutions.
• Ability to articulate & communicate design rationale.
• Translate research insights into atoms and pixels.
• Fluent in prototyping and manufacturing methods.
• A determination to challenge design and engineering orthodoxy.
• A passion for simplicity.

Benefits

• The people. You will be surrounded by talented and passionate leaders and teams – people who will challenge you and help you grow.
• The diverse culture. Matternet welcomes all cultures, genders, orientations, beliefs, and people. Matternet depends on the unique backgrounds of its team members to help solve complex problems that meet the needs of a global customer base. The company is committed to increasing diversity across the team and ensuring that Matternet is a place where people from all backgrounds can make an impact.
• The perks. Matternet is invested in you! Matternet offers all employees an opportunity to align their success with the company through equity. The benefits package includes access to competitive medical, dental, vision, LTD and life insurance, a 401(k) program, flexible time off and catered lunch.
• The values. Matternet is not a job, it’s a mission. The company is prepared to go to extraordinary lengths to make its mission successful. Most people would give up. Matternet won’t.

How to Apply

Applications without portfolios will not be considered. Please provide a URL or attach it to the application.

Location

Mountain View, CA.

Click here to Apply Now!


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Avalanche-Rescue Drone helps rescue trapped skiers by locating them under the snow

Meet the Powderbee, a drone that helps with find-and-rescue operations on the slopes. Note that I use the words find-and-rescue and not search-and-rescue because the designers behind the drone at Bluebird Mountain believe the drone’s effectiveness comes from being able to pinpoint the trapped victim’s location with enough accuracy to allow first responders to know exactly where to look.

Each year avalanches kill over 150 people worldwide and most of them die not by the force of the avalanche, but by suffocation caused by being buried under feet of snow with no way to get to the surface. In these situations, speed becomes a critical factor in saving the lives of people trapped in the snow, and Powderbee does just that. The small, lightweight, handheld drone can be carried around in a backpack and deployed in an emergency. The drone tracks the victims using the beacon signal being broadcasted by their transceiver wearable, essentially acting as a part of the search team. The drone’s design is optimized to work under harsh conditions, even battling blizzards and tough winds, while its yellow body and orange propellers allow it to be visible from a distance. Powderbee performs search patterns by flying close to the surface of the snow, covering more ground faster than search-and-rescue teams, and promptly lands once it’s within 5 meters of the victim, helping drastically narrow down the area where the search is conducted.

Designer: Bluebird Mountain

This underwater drone scans the ocean for plastic micro-particles

It’s always been my contention that to unlock a drone’s full potential, it should be equipped to do something humans can’t; like trove the ocean for something imperceivable to the human eye… plastic microparticles. The Draper is an award-winning autonomous drone that’s designed to swim through ocean waters, detecting and analyzing plastic particulate matter found in the water. “Draper’s AUV can detect and analyze invisible microplastics, and enable scientists to understand where they are originating from, where they are most prominent, and how to prevent them from contaminating our waters. When the AUV is deployed, it skims the top nine meters of the water where most microplastics are located, scanning for microplastics, testing for specific types, and ultimately relaying GPS coordinates into a heat map”, says Sprout, the studio behind Draper drone’s design.

The drone uses a pair of thrusters and rudders to control its navigation, while in-built proximity sensors and a GPS help the autonomous drone navigate through our vast oceans. The drone’s central processing unit sits in the mass at the front of the device, sucking water in from the front, testing it, and eliminating it from a rear exhaust, while the ring-detail around the drone houses its battery and electronics. Once the drone begins running low on batteries, it makes its journey to the nearest docking buoy that charges the device using wind-powered energy.

Designer: Sprout Studios for Draper