MWC 2016 Roundup: Robots, Smart Things and new Technologies

MWC 2016 Roundup

The Mobile World Congress took place in Barcelona, Spain this week setting the stage for tech and telecommunications giants as well as smaller companies and startups to show off their newest products and innovations. Separation of various areas of the consumer electronics market is not that clear anymore, most of this being attributed to the ever growing adoption of the Internet of Things paradigm. Even the most mundane devices are getting more intelligent and interactive, allowing for functionality barely thought of only a little while ago.

This year we are witnessing an explosion in connected gadgets and accessories ranging from fairly advanced cameras, smart watches, or entertainment systems to the simplest wearables, some of which are nothing but very basic sensors glued together with some type of communication interface.

Smartphones have an already well established role in our lives, becoming more similar to personal assistants rather than anything else. Their role is getting increasingly important as they can only benefit from the myriad of app enabled accessories available today.

Mobile devices already serve as central hubs for smart homes, allowing users to monitor and control their household devices, they are widely adopted as centerpieces for entertainment systems, and can also be found in professional environments serving as smart remote controls for various systems. They also serve as great educational tools for kids who are taking their first steps in STEM, and can be great interaction means for robots.

Robots at MWC 2016

LG Rolling Bot

Perhaps the biggest sensation of the fair is the LG Rolling Bot which can do lots of things such as patrol your household, entertain pets and maybe even humans. The robot is equipped with an 8-megapixel camera, speaker, microphone, colored LEDs and a Laser diode for making pets chase it. It can be remote controlled from any smartphone and provides the user a live feed.

The Rolling Bot was introduced by LG as part of a newly released series of gadgets which complement the launch of their G5 smartphone which I find to be very innovative. As a big thumbs up for LG, the robot is compatible not only with Android but with iOS devices as well. There is no price announcement yet, but based on features and craftsmanship it might be a tad expensive.

Sharp RoBoHoN

Sharp introduced a robot phone or phonebot or… Anyway, RoBoHoN surfaced in Fall last year as a very unique concept. The 20 cm tall robot is equipped with all the hardware required for offering modern smartphone functionality – 3G/LTE and WiFi interfaces, speaker, microphone and a 2 inch touch screen on its back.

The real fun however begins when the robot starts moving – it can lift up on its own, walk and even dance. The robot responds to voice commands and can also project images stored in its memory as shown in this amazing video. There is no word about pricing or when it will be available, however last year Sharp announced it will be publicly available in Spring this year.

BQ Zowi

BQ Zowi comes from Spain and is a very small 15 cm (5.9 inch) tall robot that can be programmed directly from your Android device. It is open source and compatible with Arduino. It can be programmed using Bitbloq, a visual language very similar to Scratch and can also be remote controlled as seen in this video.

The robot is equipped with ultrasonic sensors, microphone, speaker, a few LEDs and uses 4 standard hobby servos for actuating its movements. It connects via Bluetooth with your device and also has a micro USB port. In can be bought for a little under 100 Euro.

Starship Technologies Delivery Bot

The delivery bot is a concept on how the future of home delivery could look like. Starship Technologies is a company created by some of the founders of Skype who are planning to ramp up the production to a dozen more prototypes this year.

Pepper

The Pepper humanoid robot developed by Aldebaran also made an appearance at MWC 2016 albeit it was only to give some interviews.

5G technology demonstrated with teleoperation

Samsung and Deutche Telekom demonstrated the new 5G ultra-low latency (ULL) technology with a robotic arm designated to pick and place two balls. This new technology enables bits of information to be transmitted in less than a millisecond, an aspect critical in certain types of teleoperation, for example remote surgery.

Virtual Reality

The buzzword for this year is VR, with most major manufacturers presenting more or less complete solutions for this. Samsung for instance introduced a set of VR glasses which use a Galaxy smartphone as the display, while HTC introduced a completely standalone solution. Mark Zuckerberg also talks about widespread adoption of VR.

Google in partnership with Lenovo are making great efforts towards augmented reality (AR) and indoor mapping.

More interesting products

Samsung Connect Auto

Not even cars are escaping the connectivity frenzy, Samsung introduced an OBD II dongle which can monitor several parameters of your car and correlate these with positioning data from the phone within a dedicated app. The device can also serve as a Wi-Fi hotspot for passengers. While this is not necessarily something new this solution may provide better integration for the general public. No price announcements have been made, however this should not be too expensive.

Sony Xperia Agent

The robot shaped device is part of the company’s concept lineup of devices designed for everyday assistance and entertainment, very similar to the Amazon Echo launched last year.

Panasonic Nubo

Introduced last year the Panasonic Nubo was the first of its kind – a cloud enabled mobile 4G camera which can be placed anywhere.

Bagel Labs Smart Tape Measure

This smart measuring tape comes from Korea and could prove to be a very useful tool that everyone should have. It works with iOS and Android mobile devices and its battery should last about 8 hours. The unit should cost about US $50 and its developers say shipping should start in October this year, after a crowdfunding campaign which will take place this Summer.

CAT S60 thermal camera phone

Thermal cameras are available as add-ons even for iPhones however the S60 from Caterpillar is the first of its kind. It comes with an integrated thermal camera and a clever algorithm which combines this with data from a standard camera for creating better defined thermal images.