NSK Ltd developed a wheeled mobile robot that guides a person through obstacles. The technologies used for the robot can be applied to autonomous mobile robots that assist people in place of wheelchairs and service dogs, the company said.
The robot detects distances to surrounding obstacles with a laser range sensor and calculates hypothetical repulsive forces based on the distances to and directions of the obstacles. Then, it automatically changes commands in accordance with the repulsive forces and moves so that the repulsive forces become as small as possible. As a result, the robot can guide a person while avoiding obstacles.
It is possible to give orders to the robot by pushing a handle attached to it. The robot determines direction and speed based on how a force is applied to the handle. Therefore, the robot can guide a person at a desired speed.
The robot offsets the force produced by pushing the handle, so it can smoothly start up and stop. In addition, equipped with two wheels that are independent of each other and an active caster wheel, it can move on a slope and a corrugated surface.
NSK plans to exhibit the robot at International Robot Exhibition 2009, which will take place from Nov 25 to 28, 2009, at Tokyo Big Sight in Tokyo, Japan.