Robovie --

The Osaka-based Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute (ATR) has developed a crowd-monitoring humanoid robot that recognizes when people are lost and helps them find their way.

In a series of demonstrations conducted from January 22 to 24, a souped-up version of ATR's Robovie humanoid robot monitored people as they passed through a 100 square meter (1,076 sq ft) section of the Universal Citywalk Osaka shopping center. Relying on data from 16 cameras, 6 laser range finders and 9 RFID tag readers installed in and around the area, the robot was able to watch up to 20 people at a time, pinpoint their locations to within a few centimeters, and classify each individual's behavior into one of 10 categories (waiting, wandering, walking fast, running, etc.).

Robovie -- Whenever Robovie spotted people who looked disoriented, the child-sized droid wheeled up to them and asked, "Are you lost?" If so, the robot provided simple directions to the destination and pointed the way. If not, the robot proceeded to recommend nearby shops and restaurants.

ATR says the Robovie test is the first in a long series of robot-related demonstrations to be conducted at Universal Citywalk Osaka. This week, the company announced it was establishing a permanent base in the shopping center, which will serve as a real-world environment for testing new robot-oriented business ideas. In June, the company plans to start hiring out its machines to companies toying with the idea of employing robots.

[Sources: Robot Watch, Yomiuri, Nikkei]