Robot and sensor fun at 2012 CES

By Michael Stanley

Originally posted on Freescale’s The Embedded Beat Blog

Last week I was lucky enough to attend the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Freescale maintained a booth in the MEMS Tech Zone sponsored by the MEMS Industry Group (MIG), and I was on hand for much of the show. When I wasn’t actually manning the Freescale booth, I was wandering around, looking for great sensor technologies and applications. Which is, of course, the topic of this particular blog post.

My favorite product demo was the Parrot AR.Drone demonstration. This four rotor helicopter (pictured below) combines great hardware and software content to yield a unique experience.

Parrot AR.DroneParrot AR.Drone

Drone sensor content includes X/Y/Z accelerometer, X/Y/Z magnetometer, X/Y/Z gyro, 2 ultrasonic sensors and TWO video cameras (one forward and one downward facing). It’s controlled via WiFI from your iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch or laptop (other platforms are planned).

I didn’t get a chance to video tape the CES demo, but the video at this web page (click on the picture to run the video) gives you a fair idea of the Parrot’s capabilities. There is a teardown of the previous version of this product at

I didn’t have to venture beyond our own Freescale booth for my next selection: the VGo Telepresence Robot by VGo Communications. Approximately 3 feet tall, and equipped for two way audio/visual communication, this sleek little robot is built using a number of Freescale technologies including i.MX applications processor, power management and linear accelerometer. At CES, it was piloted by Freescaler Alex Dopplinger from her home in Alberta, Canada. When challenged by CES attendees to prove she was truly offsite, and not hidden behind a curtain someplace, Alex had her son fetch a snowball from outside for proof. Our thanks to Thomas Ryden, COO & Co-Founder of VGo, for bringing his robot to CES and accompanying Alex about the hall.

VGo Telepresense RobotVGo Telepresence Robot

Visit the Freescale VGo Robotic Telepresence web page for more details.

Pleo, by Innvo Labs, is a different kind of robot. Designed as a substitute pet, Pleo behaves in an amazingly lifelike fashion. It is designed to interact and learn from its environment.

Pleo and Litter MatePleo and Litter Mate

When you strip the skin off Pleo, you see the underlying “muscles” and skeleton. Pleo includes a broad range of sensors including IR, tilt & shake, touch, binaural microphones and camera.

Pleo UndressedPleo Undressed

You should take the time to visit the iFixit 2008 Pleo teardown to see just how complicated this “toy” is.

The Survey Runner Unmanned Ground Vehicle by TOPY serves a more serious role. Think “Fukushima” and you’ve got the right idea. I don’t have a lot of details on the sensor content of this robot, but the one page flyer distributed at CES specifies front and back wide angle cameras and radiation monitor. There are sure to be a wide variety of other sensors both for navigation as well as survey operations.

TOPY Survey Runner Unmanned Ground VehicleTOPY Survey Runner Unmanned Ground Vehicle

By the way, if you haven’t read Fukushima Robot Operator Writes Tell-All Blog on the IEEE web site yet, you should. It does a great job of highlighting current capabilities and limitations of today’s generation of remote control robots.

Finally, let me leave you with a warm fuzzy feeling courtesy of Paro, the Therapeutic Robot.

Paro, The Therapeutic RobotParo, The Therapeutic Robot

Paro was created for use in Japanese hospitals and extended care facilities where live animals are not allowed. Paro responds to touch by batting its eyes and wiggling like a warm puppy. Who can resist?

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