Kinect robot seeks to replace seeing eye dogs for the blind
The inventive uses of Microsoft’s Kinect device continues, we’ve already posted an earlier post about the Kinect being used as a medical tool to that could one day streamline the diagnoses of mental disorders in children.
This time it is used in the form of a four-legged robot from Japanese manufacturer NSK shown at this years International Robot Exhibition.
Built to be a mechanical replacement for seeing eye dogs used to help blind people get around, the robot companion has wheels on each leg, and can travel up and down stairs. Guided by a Kinect sensor, it’s able to discern it’s surroundings, allowing it to navigate a blind person through difficult areas. The handle pictured above will self adjust its length and angle to ensure the safety of the robot’s owner.
NSK’s reason for building an alternative to traditional flesh and blood companions is based on the fact that seeing eye dogs take both time and money to train, and have a finite life. With it’s robot, NSK is hoping that people who do not like animals, or don’t want to go through the pain of losing a pet every ten to fifteen years, will look to an artificial means for their needs.
There is something to be said, however, for the bond that is created by having an animal that is both a companion and a helper in every day life. There is a closeness that develops that improves the mental well being of both parties involved.
Emotional bonds aside, the cost comparison of training a dog vs. buying one of these robots is probably pretty close. It will be interesting to see if NSK can develop it to a point where cost becomes a non-issue and the fact you can mass produce these robots instead of training real dogs becomes its killer feature.