Mobile phone giant KDDI has teamed up with Tokyo-based Flower Robotics to develop a new concept mobile phone/robot system designed to monitor and learn the user's behavior and communicate via a home TV set.
Called "Polaris," the prototype system consists of a mobile handset that monitors the user's daily activities and an artificially intelligent robot sphere (it looks a lot like Sony's Rolly music player robot) that charges the handset and displays data on the user's TV.
When the phone is held near Polaris, the robot opens up to reveal a cradle for the handset. And when it is placed aboard, the robot automatically steers itself toward the contactless charger connected to the home TV set. Polaris then proceeds to analyze the most recent information collected by the handset, and it displays various data on the TV screen and offers advice, if necessary. Like an artificial life form with a bit of personality, Polaris can physically respond to the data with a series of lights, sounds, and movements.
According to Flower Robotics, the Polaris system -- which was unveiled in Tokyo today along with a host of other KDDI "iida" brand products -- is designed to learn the user's lifestyle by collecting data, analyzing activity, and identifying trends. The robot keeps a database of information accumulated through the handset, such as the user's daily travel and walking habits, calls and email messages sent and received, and online transactions. Using this data, Polaris learns to predict the user's behavior and offer relevant advice and information.
Still in the concept phase, Polaris needs a number of improvements to prepare it for the real world. In particular, the robot's navigation system needs further attention. At the demonstration, the robot was placed on a large table that had magnets embedded along the edges, and it used sensors to detect the magnets and stop itself from falling off. According to the developers, future versions of Polaris may achieve greater autonomy by communicating with sensors embedded in the walls of the home.
In addition, the developers plan to make the handset more secure by equipping the touch-screen with finger vein sensors.
Flower Robotics has been working with KDDI on the Polaris concept model since joining the au design project in 2007. The developers hope to have a commercial version of the robot ready next year, although the price and final design have yet to be decided.