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Japanese robot maker shows off guide dog replacement

HardwareNews
by Staff Writer
, 08 Nov 2011News

Japanese robot maker NSK has been showing off a new development that utilises Microsoft's Kinect sensor to help it recognise and navigate around elements of its environment.

Wired reports that the bot uses four wheels for locomotion, but becomes a little more impressive when it comes to climbing the stairs - as you can see from the video above.

The Kinect sensor is able to detect the height and width of the stairs, allowing the guide dog replacement to not only make sure it has enough room for itself, but to check that there's plenty of space for the blind person that the robot is guiding.

The main issue with the system at the moment seems to be that it's slow. A standard guide dog, while expensive and time-consuming to train, can perform these tasks much, much more quickly than the robot, allowing the blind to move around at a standard pace.

However, in the future it's thought that with additions like GPS and mapping software, robots like this could be far better guides, enabling users to find their way around cities and countryside without the need for specific training in that geographical area. There would also be the potential for voice commands beyond the ones that a traditional guide dog can learn.

While the Kinect development might seem like a small part of this, the fact that the motion-sensing controller's hardware and software are commercially available and cost-effective makes it a certainly a major contender for this type of technology.

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