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This page describes the history in more detail of just the robotics aspects of our company, from pioneering work a quarter of a century ago to current activities. Denning Branch International, the trading name for the private Australian company Branch & Associates Pty Ltd, (B&A), released its first robot product, the Tasman Turtle, in 1979. This LOGO-based educational robot featured speech recognition, speech synthesis, electronic compass, touch sensors, drawing pen, stepper motor motion control, infra red RS232 interface and expansions ports. With no other commercially available mobile robots on the market, this unit was also a popular hobby robot as well as a research platform used by universities and scientists. Various versions were released through to 1984, including the Tasman Turtle kit project published through Electronics Today International (1982), the compact and cheaper Turtle Tot, the basic Standard Turtle, and others. Prices ranged from $350 to $2,400 and about 2,500 were sold. Other kit robots were also marketed, primarily the Hobbybot in 1985 (also featured in Electronics Today International). Another innovative product was the two legged dynamically balanced Mr. Walker developed for Radio Shack (Tandy) in 1986. Mr. Walker shifted its heavy gel cell battery on a track inside the body to move the center of gravity over each foot as it stepped. This 2 foot high robot could step over objects and climb curbs.
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The company in those very early days was called Aero Electronics Pty Ltd, incorporating later as Flexible Systems Pty Ltd for the purposes of international manufacturing and marketing, of which B&A was one of three corporate partners (the other two were Len Whelan & Associates and Adrian Firth & Associates). In 1984 B&A continued in its own right, and then in December 1993 took majority control of Denning Mobile Robotics, Inc., (DMRI) in the USA, with both DMRI and B&A trading as Denning Branch International Robotics. This relationship ended in July 1997 when the company returned to its Australian offices trading as just Denning Branch International. The American based DMRI continued alone and closed two years later in 1999. Since then B&A has expanded its corporate management activities and still does business around the world as simply Denning Branch International (DBI).
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During the 1980's B&A expanded into prototype development for other companies including Chester for Commodore Business Machines in Texas (released at the 1984 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas), Elami for Tomy Corporation of Japan and the Re Foundation in Hong Kong (Elami, released at the 1983 Toy Fair in Tokyo, was the world's first mass produced robot, and was the direct precursor to Tomy's Omnibot series of robots, still today the best selling robots of all time), and several robots for Axlon in California. This phase culminated in 1989 with the development of the Samsonite stair climbing luggage robot, the Access (Quest Technology) stair climbing wheelchair and the General Electric Plastics' Florbot, a very smart autonomous household robot vacuum cleaner, released at the 1990 Domotechnica in Cologne Germany. See The Denning Story page on this web site for more on Florbot and other robot vacuum cleaners. (Go to Denning)

From 1984, B&A had embarked on a long-term project to develop an autonomous navigation and guidance system suitable for inexpensive mass-produced robots. This resulted in the parametric mapping technology used in Blinker (1984), Axlon's robot (1987), General Electric's Florbot (1989), Moulinex's d'Entrecasteaux (1991) and the Berkeley Challenge industrial floor cleaner (1994). The Parametric Mapping System accepted any type of input sensor, including sonar, laser range finder and stereo vision. The inexpensive ultrasonic transducer from Polaroid was used in these consumer robots since rapid 360 degree mapping could be generated for about a dollar. Laser versions appeared in the Trident and Quadra floor cleaning robots in 1996 for Windsor Industries in Denver, Colorado. A variation was partially developed for the Malaysian Rubber Research Institute in 1997 for plantation use, just before DMRI and B&A ended their alliance.
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Robot products in other markets, including security robotics, television camera robotics, materials handling robots and research robots, were also developed and released through the late 1980's and early to mid 1990's (some through the alliance with DMRI). These include the Sentry, Roboped, RoboScrub, MRV4 and UTV-200. These robots are fully autonomous and applications specific. RoboScrub was manufactured by Windsor Industries in Denver Colorado under license. In education the Fander series (Fander and Maxifander) and Hobbybot-2 were released in 1995. Expansion to agricultural robots resulted in prototype walking robots and proof-of-concepts for forestry, small fruit harvesting and rubber latex harvesting in plantations.

Several of the smart sensors developed for the robots were made available off the shelf including the LaserNav and RotoSonar, and our autonomous navigation and guidance systems are available as packages such as LaserMap and ParaMap, suitable for most mobile platforms
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DBI believes it is the oldest continuously active mobile robotics company with more products, prototypes, and projects than any other robotics company. DBI had the first successful mobile robot product, the first household vacuum cleaners, the first truly autonomous navigation, and the first real walking robot. Total sales are in the 100,000's of robots for direct sales including products sold by our contracting clients. For example around 10,000 Elamis were sold in Australasia in 1984 and over one million Omnibots were sold worldwide.

While DBI now concentrates on corporate turnarounds, many of the robotic products are still available and all are serviced through the Australian office. From time to time selected robotics projects are still undertaken, particularly to assist other robotics companies commercialize their products.

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Head Office
Denning Branch International
413 Shrub End Road, Wattle Hill, Tasmania 7121, Australia
Telephone: Tel/Fax: (03) 6265 2102. International: Tel/Fax: +61-3-6265 2102
Email: robot@southcom.com.au
http://www.southcom.com.au/~robot
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