Real-life seeing eye dogs are pretty reliable and work pretty well, so why create a robotic seeing eye dog? I don’t know. Maybe you need a seeing eye dog on Mars or in a dangerous war zone or if you have the need for a seeing eye dog through a cloud of noxious chemicals or something. In any case, NSK is working on such a robotic seeing eye dog with the help of Kinect technology.
The company’s latest prototype builds on the work of the University of Electro-Communications (UEC), which unveiled its first model, the NR001, in 2005, followed by an updated version (NR002) in 2007. With this third iteration, unveiled late last month, NSK and UEC have added a Microsoft Kinect sensor, which allows it to more easily identify and navigate obstacles or stairs. The quadrupedal beast can also scamper up and down steps with more grace than its predecessors, which moved more like arthropods than actual dogs. The bot’s paws have also been equipped with obstacle-avoiding bumper sensors, and researchers are working on incorporating voice commands, as well. NSK says its guide dog could eventually feature GPS capabilities to provide more accurate directions for the blind and visually impaired, though it’ll probably be a while before it hits the pavement; the company hopes to commercialize the dogbot by 2020.