Between February 28th and March 2nd as part of the Osaka Social Developments Initiative (ORi), Matsushita (Panasonic’s parent company) conducted field trials of their PorterBot and Delivery Robot at the Kintetsu Hotel in Osaka city. The PorterBot was stationed in the hotel lobby and greeted guests at the door, where it served as bellboy. The trial was designed to test the robots’ navigation systems, obstacle detection and avoidance, and general reliability. Additionally, users were interviewed to assess the robots’ usability and functionality to help guide future development.
The PorterBot is 130cm (4’3″) tall, 60cm (2′) wide, and weighs 60kg (132 lbs). As its primary function is to carry objects and luggage it has a carrying capacity of 20kg (44 lbs), which should be more than enough for most needs. It uses the inverted pendulum model for balance control, moving on two wheels at a rate of 0.6m/sec (2′) up to 1.6m/sec (5′). Thanks to its two-wheeled system it has a sharp turning ratio for maneuvering in close quarters and is quick enough to keep pace with fast walkers.
The robot nods its head when you have loaded your luggage and is equipped with an alarm which beeps if a person walks away having forgotten something. It follows what appears to be an IR remote “key”, which it uses to keep track of you in a crowded room. Besides the bumper surrounding it, the robot comes equipped with ultrasonic sensors, an omnidirectional camera atop its head, and a laser range finder in its base. Its NiMH battery was converted from an electric scooter that lasts between 30 minutes to 1 hour.
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