It looks almost scary with its one armed, three fingered, 1.45-meter-high, flexible physique. However the extent that it will rid its master’s house of any mess is anything but daunting.
Research scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation IPA in Stuttgart, Germany have developed a new top-of-the-line robot they call “Care-O-bot® 3,” which is predicted to revolutionize modern housekeeping styles.
Birgit Graf who heads the domestic and personal service robotics group at IPA says this is just the beginning of a new trend of household helpers. “In the future there will be new and more intelligent tools to assist people at home. Therefore, people will not need to do that many household tasks by themselves anymore.”
The robot is programmed to not invade the privacy of its human counterparts. Numerous sensors including Stereo-vision color cameras, laser scanners and, a three-dimensional range camera aid in prompting the robot stop moving a human should come into a specific radius of its hypersensitive receivers.
“We see Care-o-bot as a household device, not as a substitute for a human helper. Also, we have experienced that a humanoid look also leads to high expectations about the capabilities of the robot,” said Graf who says that the robot is simply supposed to “care” for people—not take the place of a real person. “Basically, people expect it to be able to do everything that a human is able to do. However, the system is still specialized for the execution of selected household tasks.”
Through the use of a touch screen located on a tray attached to the front of the robot, the non-human looking creation is able to monopolize the bulk of a person’s chores and services. Graf explicates on this process. “This is made possible by an omnidirectional platform with four separately steered and driven wheels. In this way, the robot can even pass safely through narrow places in an apartment.”
One example involving the extent of usage capable by the programmed bot begins with a container of juice on a table. With the command from its owner the machine can glide over to the table, collect the container of juice, pick up some serving cups en-route to its recipients and distribute fresh glasses of juice among the humans. Robotic functions like these would not only make housekeeping related activities more pleasant for individuals, it would also cut down on live-in nurses for senior citizens, or people with other constraining capabilities.
In addition, the machine can be programmed to respond to voice-activated commands, as well as other ingenious triggers. “Unlike its predecessors, it can even recognize and respond to gestures,” said Graf using a coffee cup as an example of one of the many images including its location that the mechanism can store in its memory.
These creations differ from earlier version robots because they are able to perform more tasks and the Care-O-bot has no human looking characteristics. “We deliberately moved away from the existing, humanoid service robots when we designed Care-O-bot® 3,” said Christopher Parlitz who is the project manager.