Pioneer demonstrated a 15cm tall prototype robot at CEATEC Japan 2006 that sits on the dashboard of your car, envisioned as a driving partner to make driving safe and fun. The penguin-like robot has a camera inside its head which detects stop lights, street signs, and land marks and communicates with a larger system of sensors integrated into the vehicle, which send data to the robot.
When you get inside the driver’s seat, the robot performs a welcome song and dance by swiveling, moving its head, flapping its wings, and blinking its LEDs. When driving, the robot turns around to look at the road, and if it senses sudden braking, acceleration, or turning, it performs a gentle display with soothing blue LED lights. Some stops will send signals to the robot: the LEDs turn red when it detects a stop light, and blue when the stop light turns green. If a red light is ignored, the robot will swivel around and tweet to scold you.
One of the cooler features was its ability to take and store still photographs on a compact flash as you drive, which can then be transferred to your home PC for viewing. This technology could be used to prove your innocence in the event of a crash, or wrongful ticket. It also warns drivers not to drink and drive.
Although it was still in the development phase at the time of its showing, similar technology had already been tested. In one case, a camera mounted to a car was used to help prevent collisions when parking a car. In another, the camera could detect the white road lines. It could also be used to automatically brake when people or obstacles are in the roadway.
Pioneer is also developing voice recognition, navigation, and 3D display technology in the same sector. While it could be argued that this technology doesn’t require a robot, Pioneer’s excuse was that a cute penguin-shaped robot helps people accept the new technology. Nissan is also exploring a robotic agent for automobiles with Pivo-kun in its PIVO 2 concept car.
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