Tag: ‘Smart-Tech’

Robovie-II helps with the grocery shopping

15 Dec 2009

A robot designed to help with the grocery shopping is being tested at a Kyoto-area supermarket.

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The robotic assistant -- an advanced version of the Robovie-II android developed by Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute International (ATR) -- is the centerpiece of a networked system of robots, sensors and digital technology designed to make shopping more convenient and entertaining for the elderly. ATR is testing the experimental system at the Apita-Seikadai supermarket in Kyoto until March 2010.

To use the system, shoppers first create a shopping list at home using a special mobile device (they simply tell the robot's on-screen avatar what they want to buy before going to the supermarket). Later, when the customer arrives at the store, sensors automatically detect the mobile device. The user's data is wirelessly transmitted to a waiting robot, which greets the customer by name and says, "Let's start shopping."

In the video above, which shows part of a test conducted on December 10, the child-sized robot accompanies a 67-year-old woman while she shops for mandarin oranges and broccoli. In addition to carrying the woman's shopping basket, the robot reminds her to get the mandarin oranges, recommends the apples (which the robot says are delicious this season), reminds her to get the broccoli, and suggests including lettuce in her salad along with the broccoli. On several occasions, the robot remarks on how delicious the items look.

When asked her impression of the system after the demonstration, the woman said she felt almost as if she were shopping with her grandchild, and she said it was fun talking with the robot.

[Source: Robot Watch]

scoreLight turns shapes into sound

08 Dec 2009

"scoreLight" is a laser-based musical device that generates real-time sound based on the shape of drawings or objects.

+ scoreLight (ver.1)

Relying on 3D tracking technology developed at the Ishikawa-Komuro Laboratory in 2003, scoreLight uses lasers to trace the outline of a drawing or object. As the laser dances along the contours, scoreLight produces and modulates sound according to the curvature, angle, texture, color, and contrast. An abrupt change in the direction of a line generates a discrete sound (a glitch or percussion sound), resulting in a steady rhythm when the laser follows a looped path (the size and shape of the looped path determines the tempo and structure of the beat). The device creates a layered tapestry of sound when multiple laser points explore different parts of a drawing.

Here is some video of scoreLight making music from a sketch of a brain:


scoreLight's developers include Alvaro Cassinelli (concept, hardware and software), Kuribara Yusaku (software), Daito Manabe (sound concept and programming) and Alexis Zerroug (electronics). See Cassinelli's YouTube channel for more videos.

[Link: scoreLight]

‘Tele Scouter’ retinal-display translation glasses

26 Oct 2009

Tele Scouter retinal display --

Electronics giant NEC has reportedly developed a wearable optical device that interprets foreign languages and projects a real-time translation directly onto the retina, enabling the wearer to communicate with other language speakers without an interpreter.

The prototype device — called “Tele Scouter” — consists of a tiny retinal display and microphone mounted on an eyeglass frame. The microphone picks up the conversation and transmits it to a small computer worn on the waist, which converts the speech to text and translates it into the user’s native language.

The retinal display projects the text directly into the user’s peripheral vision, allowing them to maintain eye contact with their conversation partner while reading the translation. According to the developers, the Tele Scouter can be used for hours on end without eye strain, because the wearer does not have to focus their eye on the displayed text.

Although NEC plans to put a version of the Tele Scouter on the market in 2010, the company admits the device’s translation capabilities are insufficient for real-world applications. So for now, the initial plan is to market the device as a wearable data display for employees in factories and shops.

According to the company, the device can provide instant hands-free access to data such as diagrams and operating instructions, allowing workers to perform tasks more efficiently and accurately. Other possible future applications include car navigation systems and video games.

[Source: Yomiuri]

Video: Sick robot exhibits symptoms of H1N1

21 Oct 2009

A robotic patient on display at the Security & Safety Trade Expo (RISCON) in Tokyo exhibits symptoms of the H1N1 flu virus.

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According to this NTV news report, the life-sized humanoid robot was developed as a realistic training aid for medical workers. In addition to sporting a suit of human-like skin, the robot sweats, convulses, moans, cries tears, and exhibits symptoms not unlike a real human patient infected with the H1N1 virus. If the robot does not receive the proper treatment, the symptoms gradually worsen until it stops breathing.

Patient simulator with H1N1 symptoms --

The news report fails to mention who created the robot, but it looks like it might be a distant cousin of the emergency care simulator developed by IMI.

Miruko: Wearable eyeball robot interface

24 Sep 2009

Miruko, wearable eyeball robot --

"Miruko," a wearable eyeball-shaped robot with a built-in camera and wi-fi capabilities, is designed to augment human perception by sensing and reacting to objects that cannot be seen with the naked eye.

In this video, Miruko's creators demonstrate how the robotic eyeball can be used as an interface for a virtual monster-hunting game played in a real-world environment.

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Worn on the player's sleeve, Miruko's roving eye scans the surroundings in search of virtual monsters that are invisible to the naked human eye. When a virtual monster is spotted, the mechanical eyeball rolls around in its socket and fixes its gaze on the monster's location. By following Miruko's line of sight, the player is able to locate the virtual monster and "capture" it via his or her iPhone camera.

Other skills, such as the ability to recognize and track specific faces or objects, suggest the Miruko robotic eyeball interface could be put to use in a variety of navigation, surveillance, and augmented reality entertainment applications.

Polaris: Mobile phone robot

09 Sep 2009

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.

Polaris mobile phone robot by KDDI iida --

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.

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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.

Polaris mobile phone robot by KDDI iida --

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.

[Source: Impress]

Ninomiya-kun book-reading robot

12 Jun 2009

Ninomiya-kun book-reading robot --

While electronic books and texts may be the wave of the future, Japanese researchers have developed a literate, child-sized robot capable of reading old-fashioned paper-printed books.

Ninomiya-kun, a 1-meter-tall, 25-kilogram aluminum-framed robot developed at Waseda University's Information, Production and Systems Research Center (IPSRC), was unveiled on June 11 at a robot trade fair in Kitakyushu, where it entertained onlookers by reading fairy tales from a book.

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The robot, which was developed jointly with the Kitakyushu National College of Technology and Shanghai Jiao Tong University, reads by training its camera eyes on printed materials placed on a special book stand. Character recognition software installed on a computer in the robot's backpack translates the text into spoken words, which are produced by a voice synthesizer.

Although Ninomiya-kun still sounds like a machine, the developers are working to give its voice more feeling. After that, they believe the robot will be ready to read books to children and the elderly for a living.

With the ability to recognize over 2,000 kanji, hiragana and katakana, Ninomiya-kun can currently read elementary texts. The developers say they plan to upgrade the machine's camera eyes to enable it to read more complex characters in the future.

Ninomiya-kun takes its name from Kinjiro Ninomiya, a popular 19th-century agricultural leader and philosopher who was born poor but became a great landowner through hard work and perseverance. Statues of Ninomiya typically show him reading a book while carrying a load of firewood on his back. The android shares Ninomiya's love of books, but it packs a computer on its back instead of wood.

[Sources: Yomiuri // RKB]

Ultra-futuristic concept vehicles

26 May 2009

What will automobiles look like 50 years down the road? If they turn out to be anything like these concepts from the design studios of four major automakers, we are in for quite a ride.

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- Mazda Motonari RX

Mazda Motonari RX --
Mazda Motonari RX [+]

In Mazda's vision of the late 2050s, advances in molecular engineering have rendered metal-based manufacturing obsolete. The rise of ubiquitous computing and artificial intelligence drastically accelerates the automotive production cycle. Cars are cheap, lightweight (around 200 lbs, or less than 100 kg), and equipped with intelligent crash avoidance systems that eliminate traffic accidents. However, people still manage to get speeding tickets.

Mazda Motonari RX --

The Mazda Motonari RX -- which takes its name from the legendary Japanese warrior Mori Motonari -- interfaces seamlessly with the driver to function as an extension of the body.

Mazda Motonari RX --

The vehicle drives sort of like a street luge. Acceleration and direction is determined by two armrest mounted control points, and the vehicle's exoskeletal frame shape-shifts in accordance with the position of the driver's arms and legs when enveloped in the seat.

Mazda Motonari RX --
Omni wheels

Four omnidirectional wheels allow 360 degrees of movement, and the tread expands or contracts to suit the driving conditions.

Mazda Motonari RX --

A "haptic skin" suit consisting of millions of microscopic actuators enables the driver to experience the road psycho-somatically while receiving electrical muscle stimulation from the onboard AI guidance system (or other remotely located drivers).

Mazda Motonari RX --

The vehicle's entire structure is comprised of a 100% reprototypable, carbon nanotube/shape memory alloy weave with a photovoltaic coating, which allows the vehicle to mimic the driver's body movements while powering the in-wheel electrostatic motors. [More]

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- Toyota Biomobile Mecha

In Toyota's vision of the late 2050s, cities have developed vertically due to limited area on the ground, leading the transportation industry to develop new vehicles capable of navigating vertical space.

Toyota Biomobile Mecha --
Toyota Biomobile Mecha [+]

Toyota's Biomobile Mecha, a shape-shifting vehicle with nano-laser wheels, can read and adapt to changes in the environment and travel vertical pathways by means of biomimetic feet with powerful suction.

Toyota Biomobile Mecha --

In addition, the Biomobile Mecha is powered by pollution. A special skin derives energy from harmful substances in the air, so the vehicle never runs out of fuel (as long as the future skies remain polluted) and restores balance to the environment while it goes.

Toyota Biomobile Mecha --

The real-time strategic navigation planning system, which reads the environment via a 3D scanner, gives the vehicle "instincts" that enable it to autonomously adapt to the driving environment.

Toyota Biomobile Mecha --

Advanced nanotechnology enables the vehicle to expand and contract its structure horizontally and vertically as needed, allowing it to serve as a compact commuter, an aerodynamic performance vehicle, or even as a temporary dwelling. [More]

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- Nissan OneOne

In Nissan's vision of the 2050s, robots have become an integral part of our lives, blurring the line between humans and machines. The Nissan OneOne combines personal mobility with the family robot concept.

Nissan OneOne --

Billed as the ultimate pet, the Nissan OneOne (pronounced "wan-wan," the Japanese sound for a barking dog) is a friendly, helpful member of the family of the future. Able to operate autonomously without a driver, the GPS-guided vehicle can help out by picking up the dry cleaning, fetching the groceries, and taking the kids to school.

Nissan OneOne --

OneOne propels itself forward by flexing and relaxing synthetic polymer muscles in its "legs," much as you would if skating on roller blades.

Nissan OneOne --

The vehicle can also assume various positions depending on the driving environment. It reclines to achieve greater speed, and it stands up to increase visibility and squeeze into tight spaces. [More]

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- Honda 124 (One to the Power of Four)

In Honda's vision of the 2050s, people have flocked back to the suburbs, fueling consumer demand for a truly flexible commuter vehicle.

Honda 124 --
Honda 124 [+]

The solar-hybrid powered Honda 124 (One to the Power of Four) is an energy-efficient, modular vehicle that can separate into four different fully functional units, each uniquely suited for specific driving conditions.

Honda 124 --

A combination of robotics, artificial intelligence and molecular engineering (which enables the body panels to be reshaped according to use) allow each module to instinctively reconfigure itself and operate as a fully functional unit. Two of the modules are suitable for short-distance inner-city driving, while the other two are ideal for longer distances at higher speeds.

Honda 124 --

Because the Honda 124 consists of multiple units that can be joined together, carpoolers can take advantage of HOV lanes and share commuting costs. [More]

Gov’t to track citizens, prevent pandemic

19 May 2009

H1N1 --

Can GPS tracking technology prevent a swine flu pandemic? Japan's Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications hopes to find out this autumn by testing a mobile phone-based GPS tracking system that constantly monitors each individual's location and sends text alerts to participants if they cross paths with anyone who is later identified as a flu victim.

The proposed system relies on mobile phone providers to constantly track the subjects' geographical locations and keep chronological records of their movements in a database. When a person is labeled as "infected," all the past location data in the database is analyzed to determine whether or not anyone came within close proximity to the infected individual.

The system will know, for example, whether or not you once boarded the same train or sat in the same movie theater as the infected individual, and it will send you a text message containing the details of the close encounter. The text messages will also provide instructions on specific measures to take in response.

The primary purpose of the test, which will involve about 2,000 volunteers in both urban and rural areas, is to verify the precision of GPS tracking technology, estimate the potential costs of operating such a system, and determine whether or not such a system can be put into practical use.

To be of any real use in a place like Tokyo, a phone-based disease-tracking system would require the participation of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of subscribers willing to have their locations tracked -- not a stretch given the popularity of wireless services such as NTT DoCoMo's "iConcier," which provides personalized, concierge-like services to individual mobile phones based on location data, shopping history, and other personal information.

From a privacy standpoint, opinions differ on the degree to which sensitive personal data such as location and travel history should be shared and used. With this in mind, the ministry will also explore the issue of psychological resistance to the use of personal information.

[Source: Asahi]