26 April 2012 by James Hayes
trundled around the smooth-floor circuit bordering the company's stand.
This year Bluebotics has been joined by more service robot makers, and there is clear evidence that this technology is moving from clever novelty to commercially-viable application.
Take for instance the showcased products from German firm MetraLabs, its SCITOS G6 Transporter and its SCITOS G3 home-care model. The former resembles an item of cafeteria furniture most people are familiar with: the open-stack cabinet for leaving your tray and used tableware, etc., in. G6 is a robotised version of this eatery staple, programmed to autonomously take the dirties back to the kitchen when all its slots become filled, then return empty to its designated post.
MetraLabs has stuck a bug-eyed little 'head' on the top of the unit, and at first I thought, "Oh, not another daft attempt to make a robot look like a toy human"; but it actually has a practical purpose: it prevents people from overloading the unit by placing items on its top, and also provides a branding opportunity for restaurant chains or their suppliers.
SCITOS G3 is designed to support persons in home environments,nursing homes, and even hospitals. It trundles about displaying an interactive touch screen that can be used for, say, displaying medication schedules. Future possibilities include integrating this with mobile phone-based telehealthcare apps, or even full M2M functionality.
One other point about the mobile service robots at Hannover Messe worth noting: unlike last year, when they were kept corralled within the confines of each exhibitors' stand, this week they have been allowed to wander - autonomously in some cases - around the aisles, so that visitors can inspect them up close, touch and prod them, put their arms round them and have their photograph taken, etc.
This mularkey will in due course present something of an issue for exhibition organisers, one suspects, when their clients want to use mobile robots to distribute marketing collateral (flyers, freebies) to visitor throngs. And how belong before the dreaded health & safety issue crops up, with the first legal action for an injury caused by somebody colliding with an autonomous service robot?
You can't help wondering how many of the past's key breakthrough innovations would have been stymied by H&S if it had been around at the time. Just think of Stephenson's Rocket, for instance ("Sorry Mr S., we can't have the crew setting off in an open-top plate without protective headgear and safety harnesses"); mind you, a bit of 19th century H&S might have saved William Huskisson MP from being knocked down and killed by the steamy locomotive at the opening of the Liverpool & Manchester Railway in September 1830, thus becoming the first victim of a train accident.
Edited: 26 April 2012 at 01:41 PM by James Hayes
Posted By: James Hayes @ 26 April 2012 01:33 PM General
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