It seems that the dawn of iRobot may be upon us. Granted, it doesn’t involve Will Smith or a robot uprising…yet. But we are quickly approaching the day when robots are an integral part of our daily lives. The Japanese telecommunications company SoftBank recently opened a retail space that was staffed only by Pepper robots. We’ve talked about the all-robot-run hotel and just a few months back, I told you all about Jibo, the social robot companion that raised over $40 million in funding.
The latest in robo-trends comes to you from Tokyo, where last week Hitachi revealed its answer to Pepper: EMIEW3. This robot is designed to recognize when people like shoppers or travelers need assistance and then automate customer service in places like department stores, hospitals, airports and other areas with high foot-traffic and the need for robo-guidance.
EMIEW3 can recognize human movement and by using 14 different microphones, isolate human voices from background noise. This functionality is used to identify customers in need of assistance. The robot can also toggle between multiple languages, which seems like it will be particularly useful in heavily urban areas that attract a multitude of nationalities and dialects.
The robot is about 3 feet tall (90 cm) and can travel at 3.7 mph, allowing it to keep up with humans and, leveraging obstacle evasion and “autonomous moving” technology, not smash into things while doing so.
It has the ability to slow down when going around corners, right itself when knocked over, and handle floor level differences of almost 6 inches (15 cm). According to Hitachi, this ability to handle varying floor levels is because:
A service robot that work in a office building is required to run over safely an obstacle on a floor, such as a threshold, mattress, or electric cables…
Most impressive (or terrifying), is that the bot is connected to cloud-based AI, which allows it to learn new behavior and then share that behavior with other EMIEW3 bots. This seems to indicate that all EMIEW3 robots will quickly become smarter as new situations and behaviors arise around them. The interconnected robots can also communicate with each other, meaning that one bot could make the sale and another bot could ring up the sale.
Hitachi anticipates a the final model being ready in 2018, and has hopes of it being used outside of Japan.
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