PrimeSense, the company which provides the main chip inside Kinect, has announced that two of its sensors would be utilized in a French robotic project called SAMI (Systeme Autonome Modulaire Interactif) which is being developed by CRIIF. SAMI is a humanoid robot that has been designed to work in many types of environments, ranging from healthcare to manufacturing, but before it can do any of that, it needs to be able to move around freely in an space designed “for humans” with many potential obstacles. One sensor is located near the ground to detect obstacles, and another one is on the torso to recognize humans.
And that’s where the PrimeSense technology comes into play: its sensors can perceive colors and depth, which is hugely important when it comes to computer vision. With depth perception, it is easier to “see” (or sense) obstacles in order to avoid them. As you may have seen with Kinect, the robot would also be able to recognize humans (by our typical shape/skeleton) and their gestures.
Of course, despite the optimism from researchers and the advances made by PrimeSense, computer vision remains a huge challenge when it comes to practical applications. It is fair to say that in order to have robots actually helping the baby-boomers, a breakthrough would need to happen… now. That said, we don’t need to hit iRobot-levels right away, there are many other things that semi-autonomous robots could do if they were much aware of their surroundings.