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Camcorders: robots in disguise

June 22, 2011

A little while back, I wrote a story for Canadian Business about the changing shape of robots. No, it wasn’t about Transformers, it was about what we expect our mechanical friends to look like.

As little as 10 years ago, the popular conception of a robot was still humanoid; that when the robot revolution finally arrived, they would all look like C3P0 or Star Trek’s Commander Data. We’re now in the early stages of that revolution and the reality is considerably different, with robots not only coming in disc shapes but also packaged in familiar forms such as cars and, very soon, houses.

One of the experts I interviewed for the story - Jun–Ho Oh, a professor in the department of mechanical engineering at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology - said he considers some of the newest cameras on the market to be robots. Such devices can auto-focus and track a subject’s movement autonomously, which qualifies them as such.

It’s hard to understand what he meant without actually seeing it, so I put together a brief video to demonstrate. While I was down at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles a few weeks ago, I got to play around with the new Canon Vixia HF R20 camcorder. I used it to record a number of interviews while mounted on a tripod. The video below is a short clip from my interview with Dennis Durkin, chief operating and finance officer for Microsoft’s interactive entertainment business.

What’s really cool is that the camera, sitting by itself on its tripod, followed Durkin around without any help from me. It’s Jun-Ho’s robot in action. Check it out and watch his movements carefully:

I don’t know about you, but I find that really cool. It’s like having your own cameraman with you.

By the way, Durkin and I were discussing whether Microsoft could apply the success it has found in its Xbox business to other parts of the company. If you’re interested in that topic, check out the blog post I wrote for MSN.

Categories: microsoft, robots