Didn’t I mention that Japan does give off the impression that it is a nation that has robots crawling just about anywhere and everywhere, helping folks living there in many different ways? Well, here is yet another avenue for a digital lifeform to help us out – NSK of Japan has announced that they are hard at work on a quadrupedal robot which could very well function as a guide dog for the blind. The first prototype known as the NR001 was already completed six years ago thanks to a team of engineers, and this very same team is now working to further improve the current prototype.
Already in the third prototype phase, this particular robot relies on a Microsoft Kinect sensor that will enable it to detect stairs as well as other obstacles in its path. Not only that, the legs themselves have also been redesigned in a way to make it move nimbly up and down flights of stairs at the same speed of the average human. To make it all the more canine-like, voice recognition has also been thrown into the mix, letting you command it with basic obedience cues such as start (heel), stop (halt), and move up and down the stairs – without the need to use treats during the process.
While it will be nowhere near the quality of an actual guide dog, you can clearly see how this particular digital pooch has its fair share of strengths to help the visually impaired. Hopefully even more work and research into this area will one day churn out a robotic guide dog that will also be able to assess external threats such as someone ready to rob a blind person – a moving jaw with a vise-like grip would certainly be worth an upgrade in my books.