Japanese Firms Start Testing Robot-infrastructure Communication

Feb 6, 2009
Hiroshi Idegawa, Nikkei Monozukuri
The concept of the "Smart Robotics Building" project
The concept of the "Smart Robotics Building" project
[Click to enlarge image]
The guide robot "SmartGuide"
The guide robot "SmartGuide"
[Click to enlarge image]

Shimizu Corp and Yaskawa Electric Corp opened the "Smart Showroom" demonstration space as the first step of the "Smart Robotics Building" project, which involves the use of robot technologies in intelligent buildings.

The project is aimed at providing various services and comfortable living environment through combination of building infrastructure technologies and robot technologies. Robots will play the roles of receptionist, guide, delivery personnel, cleaners, guards, etc in place of humans. For example, they will approach visitors, attend to and take them to their destinations in the building.

As the first step of the project, the two companies established the "Smart Showroom," a demonstration space that employs the infrastructure technologies of Shimizu and the "SmartGuide," a guide robot developed by Yaskawa. In the showroom, the robot takes care of all the services including the reception, explanation of displayed items and seeing off visitors.

The infrastructure will detect the arrival of a visitor, and the robot will give spoken explanations of displayed items as well as presentations using a projector in response to the information from the infrastructure. The two companies conducted interactive proving tests and confirmed the effectiveness of the infrastructure-integrated robot services.

To realize this concept, role sharing between the building and the robot is important. Instead of relying on robots for all of the functions, infrastructure technologies, which include human detection, device control and information and telecommunication technologies, will be combined with robot technologies to centrally control the entire building, including the IDs and locations of the robots operating in the building, so that multiple robots can work in a wide area.