28 November 2006

Kinder, Gentler Robocop--and Other Robot News

Robots are coming out of the labs and into the workplace. Sohgo Security Services in Japan is putting a security robot into service at a Tokyo shopping mall.

While on patrol, four cameras mounted in the robot’s head and shoulders record video, and its sensors detect the presence of humans, water leaks and fire. When the robot encounters something suspicious, it alerts a computer in the security room and sends video. Human security guards view the video footage sent by the robot and determine how to respond.

Equipped with communication functions, the robot can also provide services to the people it is watching. A touch-screen embedded in the robot’s chest can be used to display information about lost children and other data about the surroundings, and a voice synthesizer enables the robot to tell the time, provide weather data and make promotional announcements.

Another Tokyo company is hiring out their robots for US $445 an hour. No doubt for that price the robot will be used mainly for PR functions.

Aerial robots, or UAVs, may soon be put to use patrolling the US-Mexican border. UAVs have accrued a significant track record in Iraq, and may prove useful in North America domestically.

Robots may soon find greater use helping rehabilitate stroke (CVA) patients and helping the development of autistic children. Robots also may soon find a use as companions for the elderly and disabled.

One blog that tries to keep up with robot trends, is Robot Gossip blog. Other useful robot links can be found on the Al Fin main page sidebar under the Androids, Robots . . . heading.

Very little is needed in terms of robot/android development, beyond the improvement of robot personality, including more human emotional expression. The ability to balance and ambulate like humans will eventually be useful, but robots that can safely roll from room to room inside a home or building could provide most of the services mentioned above, given the appropriate hardware and software.


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