Tokyo-based Flower Robotics has unveiled an innovative concept for a home robot that can perform different functions depending on the peripheral attached to it.
The robot, which is intended to be ready for sale by 2016, is a similar size and shape to a Roomba robot vacuum cleaner, and moves around in a similar way, but features a docking space on its top that a variety of attachments can connect to.
By connecting peripherals such as a lamp or mini garden, users can change the function of the robot, which is known as Patin.
Other peripherals Flower has suggested include a robotic arm, a speaker and projector.
However, the company won’t be producing all of Patin’s attachments itself; instead, the company is providing an Android-based SDK with the intention that other companies will also produce peripherals.
The robot is equipped with an array of sensors, as well as a number of cameras, including a depth-sensitive camera developed by ASUS.
This will allow it not only to move around safely, but to provide greater function to its peripherals: it could, for example, detect its owner and move a lamp closer to them, or identify the best location to position itself to ensure maximum light for the plants in its care.
As with many of the robots we are seeing developed, Patin will be able to connect to the cloud, both to stream data such as music, and to receive updates to its AI.
It would also be able to monitor the behaviour of its owner and provide environmental conditions to suit.
While this all seems very conceptual, Flower Robotics – which has already produced a commercially available mannequin robot – has already produced a working prototype of the base unit, has patented parts of the technology and has a clear technical specification for how it plans to build the robots.
Running on Linux, the robot will be powered by a DC motor with a lithium-ion battery, will have a Jetson TK1 CPU board and will be controlled with an Arduino board.
Such details are clearly designed to give sceptics confidence in the technology, as technical data is rarely shared alongside concept videos of this type.
Patin is an exciting idea for a home robot, as it moves the technology away from a single function to being a multipurpose part of the home.
While encouraging other companies to provide modules is potentially risky, if successful the robot could prove far more versatile than any other consumer robot, making it an appealing prospect for a wide mix of people.
If third party companies embrace the technology, we could even see Patin becoming a familiar sight in many homes, with each one uniquely tailored to its owner’s needs.
Images courtesy of Flower Robotics.