RoTA (Robotic Aid Travel) is a R&D project conducted by Pr. Hideo Mori at Yamanashi University since 1990.
Destined to the visually impaired, the outdoor mobile robot acts as an intelligent cart, guiding people across the streets.
The 60 Kg, one meter tall machine is equipped with voice recognition and a push button interface. When moving, the "guide dog robot" is fully aware of its environment : it recognizes landmarks such as zebra crossing marks or trafic signals, stopping when the light is red, and "sees" cars or other pedestrians.
In case of trouble, the robots communicates wirelessly with a Service Center, allowing to give extra information on the trajectory and adapt the navigational information system.
Twenty robots are going to be developed this year, with the support of NEDO, Ministry of Education, and the cooperation of industrial companies such as Suzuki or Hitachi. They will be tested in real conditions at hospitals in Yamanashi Prefecture, and could be generalized in the near future.
Photos © Yamanashi University
Cyril Fievet, October 30, 2001