Thursday, April 13, 2017

#MIN97 Recap

Robots were all over the place at the Innovation and Design Building in Boston's Seaport District for Mass Innovation Nights #MIN97. The joint was loud and crowded with lots of first time MIN attendees as well as lots of robots. There were weeding robots, cleaning robots, underwater robots, warehouse robots,  ride-em robots, and even robot-assisted bikes. 
What We Think Robots Look Like

What Robots Actually Look Like
It was cool to catch up with a former co-worker from ancient times and to meet new people.  It was also cool to be in the Seaport District and realize that despite the gentrification, it is still a seaport with ships and stuff like that. The view from the end of Drydock Ave was gorgeous.
View from Drydock Ave
The four chosen presenters for the night were:
  • Superpedestrian an electric assist robot wheel that responds to how and where you ride and makes bicycling easy
  • Pong Robotics a personal electric vehicle that mimics the biomechanics of downhill skiing to provide a fun ride that might even be helpful for back and joint pain in addition to getting you around from point A to point B
  • MiniMole LLC a small robotic sweeper for cleaning hard-to-reach places
  • Collabots robotics consulting and training
The first thing I saw when I walked in the door was people lined up to try the Superpedestrian bikes, which use "The Copenhagen Wheel" to amplify your pedaling power and enhance your ride. It's a pretty cool alternative to the basic electric bike. Everybody who rode one of the bikes enjoyed it. It might be time to get my bike out of the basement again and fit it with one of these wheels.
Robot Assisted Bikes Were Very Popular
William Pong rode his nifty electric vehicle right up to the microphone to give his presentation and rode it all over the exhibit area too. It made me think of a seated version of Segway without the need for exquisite balance. It's way cooler looking than those clunky scooters advertised to "seniors" on TV. If you can walk short distances but need something for getting around beyond a few steps, this seems like a good idea. The height seems perfect and he says that riding it can actually help build core strength.
Pong Robotics Discussing His Ergonomic Electric Vehicle
Who doesn't love something that's small and cute and cleans your floor even under the furniture?  Mini-Mole is only one inch high and four inches wide, so it can get underneath most furniture. It scooted around its table and avoided obstacles, attracting lots of attention. I lost count of how many people I saw taking video of it.

[For some reason, Blogger is having a hard time displaying my video -- sorry about that. I added a still photo instead.]

Collabots provides consulting, training, and public speaking engagements aimed at encouraging social robotics through collaboration and advocating dialogue about robots in society.
In addition to the four selected speakers, we had a Student Spotlight presentation from StormGears FRC, a team of high school robot engineers. They presented their award winning robot and talked about their SteamSplash project, a set of kits and challenges to inspire younger kids to become interested in STEM. They were the hit of the evening with their enthusiasm and their desire to pass on that enthusiasm to younger kids. No wonder they were one of the audience choice winners! They also nailed the matching T-shirt game, so I hereby award them Best Costume of #MIN97.
StormGears FRC -- Best Costume of #MIN97

The Audience Choice winners were:
Winners got a pack of prizes provided by Innovation Women and WeWork.
Stanley Robotics showed off their vector autonomous mobile robot. It's a compact, multi-purpose, omni directional work horse capable of carrying a payload close to 300 pounds (people were riding around on it, but none of them came close to the specified payload). It navigates autonomously, and yes, it really can move sideways.The wheels are cool-looking too.
Stanley Robotics Robot Moving Sideways
The Tertill from Franklin Robotics takes a lot of the work out of gardening by automating weeding. It lives in your garden, charges itself in the sun, moves around the garden avoiding plants and obstacles, and cuts down emerging weeds.
Tertill Lurks in the Garden Waiting to Weed
Electrona Robotics showed off their underwater drone, suitable for collecting scientific data, taking underwater pictures, inspecting underneath docks, or retrieving objects from as deep as 400 feet.
NextShift Robotics demonstrated their TM-100 robot that aims to improve e-commerce order fulfillment. The autonomous robots can scoot around the warehouse aisles with ease, collaborating with each other retrieving totes of varying sizes, working safely with humans, and avoiding obstacles.
NextShift Robotics Autonomous Warehouse Robot
All those fun robots, good food from The Savory Cater, wonderful juices from Suja, and amazing experts made for quite an event.
Traditional Suja Juice Shot -- Stalwart Juice Providers of MIN
With such a variety of experts, I decided to pick two "experts looking expert" for MIN97. Expert Julia Hansen displayed cool stuff from CIC's Design Town 3D printing service.
Expert Looking Expert -- Demonstrating Makerbot 3D Printing
Alpine Bearing , purveyor of high quality bearings, had two tables full of bearings on display as well as their expertise. (Speaking of bearings: the very first startup I ever worked for -- in my teen years during the late Jurassic -- was a company that made air bearings.) 
Experts Looking Expert - Alpine Bearing