Robolift11, the present and future of robotics

Lyon, March 23-25, 2012

After years of hype and crazy expectations, robots are ready to become an integral part of our life. Whether they are intended for care, education, or war, they can not be ignored anymore. Although robots did not show up under the humanoid form most of us expected, they represent a market estimated to 25b$ in 2010, 66b$ in 2025! The Googles and Microsofts of robotics are currently emerging, small startups scattered all around the globe in Europe, Asia and America.

Robolift is your chance to catch this revolution early, while opportunities are still open and up for grab. The conference will explore two key aspects of robotics. First, today’s reality. What are the best projects emerging in the different fields of robotics? What is the legal and ethical framework? How can we interact with robots, and how can we have them convey emotions? What is the place of robots in society, will they help us or put us out of work?

The second part of the program will be more prospective, exploring the big questions to be answered in the years ahead. What shape will robots take in the future? Can you teach a robot to learn and become independent? Can robots be hacked and repurposed? Should machines have a moral sense? Will we one day see a robot able to talk to humans?

A lot of big questions that will be addressed by today’s most prominent researchers, entrepreneurs and designers of the industry. Among them

Wendell Wallach

A consultant and scholar at Yale University’s Interdisciplinary Center for Bioethics, Wendell Wallach is interested in the prospects for implementing moral decision making capabilities in computers and robots.

Cynthia Breazeal

Cynthia Breazeal is an Associate Professor of Media Arts and Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where she founded and directs the Personal Robots Group at the Media Lab.

Tandy Trower

The original Project Manager for Microsoft Windows, Tandy Trower has moved to robotics and recently started Hoaloha Robotics a new venture focused on robotic solutions for assistive care.

Patrizia Marti

Patrizia Marti is Assistant Professor and senior researcher at the Faculty of Humanities, University of Siena where she teaches Human Computer Interaction and Design of Learning Technologies

The conference will be organized inside the Innorobo salon, so Robolift participants can not only listen to great ideas and meet the people behind them, but also play with hundreds of robots presented by the key players of the industry.

The full information on the conference can be found on the event’s website located on

Top 20 Swiss brands on Facebook

Update: this is clearly neither exhaustive nor correct. I got two emails from brand managers cited in the rankings, both claim to have more followers than indicated (and I trust them). Several top brands are also missing, like Rolex for example.

Interesting, shows which brands made it to the global scene. The gap between the top 5 and the rest is pretty amazing.

Where are the good old days (when governments did not understand the internet)?

The topic of governments’ handling and new technologies is making the news all over the world thanks to Egypt, Tunisia, Iran or Algeria. Time has changed since the mid 1990s when the Internet was completely out of reach for governments.

  • You can really see the digital divide in action by comparing the political troubles in Ivory Coast (4.6% of population with Internet access), Egypt (21.2 %) and Tunisia (34%). In Ivory Coast, the tension centers around physical threats, embargoes and sanctions. In Egypt and Tunisia, well, you know the story. Governments tried to block access to the network among other measures to control the unrest. Shows how much the Internet has become a strategic question.
  • Governments are getting better at the whole technological game. Ten years ago, Internet was a space of total freedom because states were sometimes not even aware it existed. Now it took only three days to the Egyptian government to almost completely shut down the internet (protests started on the 25th of January, access was blocked on the 28th). It is a remarkably short time span for such a massive measure. In more developed countries, cutting the internet is not possible anymore (too many entry points, too many satellites), and the Egyptian government’s will was facilitated by a less developed network. Still, that denotes a big change: states now have a capability to react quickly to what they consider threats in the digital world.
  • Laws like Hadopi show that governments can still be both late and in denial when it comes to technologies.
  • But in a weird twist of events, the fact that laws are now outdated seem to have created an advantage for some government, like in the US:

    the law that protects your right to communicate privately through electronic means was enacted all the way back in 1986, long before email, instant messaging, cell phones and Skype existed.

    Advocates believe the Electronic Communications Privacy Act is being overwhelmed by new technology, creating an advantage for government investigations into terrorism and crime, but threatening the ability of consumers to defend against excessive intrusion.

    Some argue that the 25-year-old ECPA “affords more protection to letters in a file cabinet than email on a server,” according to a recent New York Times story on the subject


    The story is the following: lack of laws created an advantage for consumers who could do what they wanted (download, hack, spam) on the internet for years. Now that these same technologies are creating huge intelligence opportunity, the balance is shifting and consumers don’t have a fair legal arsenal to defend their rights. How ironic is that? Internet users will soon be demanding more laws to protect themselves from government abuse? What happened to the good old days when users didn’t have to worry about what their government was doing online…

Latest news from Japan

I will let the reader judge to what extent these two news are related – or not 😉

Seriously, how long can an economy stay on top of the game when what it becomes know for is Ninken Gakki, Noodle Eater’s Hair Guard or full body umbrella 😉 ?

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The death of cash (yeah yeah…)

Starbucks released a mobile payment system, and the Huffington’s post runs an article on how this payment system will “kill” any other form of transactions.

Banks beware — if by July this year you are still issuing plastic cards, or still opening checking accounts — you are about to be in a world of hurt!


A quick look at the history of innovation (DVD vs cinema, mobile vs fixed internet access, etc) tells us that innovations rarely replace what was here before. They usually reshuffle the balance of power (in this case: mobile payment becomes one of the possibilities) and increase the size of the global pipe (more payments happen overall).

Now to this particular technology: it is likely that this kind of systems will be adopted differently depending on generations (and 37% of the world’s population is above 45 years of age), depending on the penetration of smartphones, etc. I am pretty sure my grandma will still be using cash for the years to come.

And from the demo (video below) mobile payment is still more painful than handing bills to the cashier. Launch an app, click, wait.  In fact there are plenty of reasons that plead for our good old bills: cash is anonymous, cash is a habit, cash is a symbol, etc.

What we see here is the typical hype cycle, we are embarking to the famous peak of inflated expectations. In the coming months, we will hear lots of predictions about the end of cash and the ubiquity of mobile payments. Truth is it will take several years to develop a solid use case, and spread that technology to the mass markets. Don’t believe everything you read 😉

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