There is an interesting article in the Seattle Times about former Microsoft robotics evangelist, Tandy Trower, launching a new startup named Hoaloha Robotics. His goal is to create a $5k-10k personal robot (aka mobile manipulator) in the next five-to-ten years that can address the needs of older adults, such as telepresence activities and other healthcare tasks. Hoping to leverage cheap 3D sensing (like depth cameras a la Microsoft's Kinect) and inexpensive computing, this one-man (so far) company is another entrant in a new, budding market. Having been personally involved with the design, construction, programming, and brief home-deployment of a mobile manipulator (EL-E), I can confidently say that Tandy & co. have a lot of work cut out for themselves -- I wish them luck and success.
It's amazing how much it looks like a cross between some of the Healthcare Robotics Lab's (my lab of residence) robots: Cody, EL-E, and Dusty. In particular, the flat plate with sweeper arms (a la Dusty's "dustpan" end effector) is very similar! Apparently we had some good ideas. ;-)
There is one quote from the article that I found interesting:
The vision isn't unique, but Trower believes he can make an important contribution by developing a common interface and software that will make assistive robots easy to use and customize with applications, similar to the way Apple standardized the interface and application model for smartphones.
I'm wondering how this idea is reconciled with ROS...? The latter seems to be gaining a lot of traction, and the idea of a "robot app store" is hardly unique. For all of our sake's, I hope the resulting market is big enough to support many contenders.