As part of the field trials conducted at the Kintetsu Hotel in Osaka city in early March 2009, the Delivery Robot transported sheets and towels on the 9th floor to assist the housekeeping staff. Although not open to the public, Panasonic did give a press demonstration, during which the robot’s wheels had some difficulty slipping on the hotel’s carpet. These and any other potential problems can be ironed out later.
The Delivery Robot has a height of 125cm (4′), is 60cm (2′) wide, and weighs a whopping 75kg (165 lbs). This makes it small enough to easily fit inside an elevator. Like the PorterBot, it has a two-wheel drive system that can cope with up to 2cm in surface variance and moves from 0.3m/sec (1′) to 1.6m/sec (5′). Using preprogrammed maps of its environment, such as the floorplan of the hotel, it can be sent to specific locations using a self-determined route. Just tap on the touch panel where you want it to go, and off it goes. No need to worry about any unknown obstacles that might be in the way, thanks to the ultrasonic sensors on its body as well as a laser range finder in its base. And thanks to its left and right blinkers, bystanders know where it’s headed.
The Delivery Robot also uses a camera on the back of its “neck” to locate ceiling-mounted visual markers to help keep track of itself. Panasonic claims that the markers should be unnecessary in the future thanks to existing objects such as sprinklers, air vents, and light fixtures (though it was still using this system during Panasonic’s October robot seminar). Rather than patrolling specific routes or being told where to go by a human operator, in the future the robot should operate only on customer demand.
The Delivery Robot is now being positioned as an autonomous delivery cart for hospitals, as Panasonic enters the first phase of its plans to roll out robots in the health care industry, manufacturing sector, and eventually the home.
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