Robotic dogs have always been kind of useless, but now thanks to NSK, a Japanese manufacturer, they may now serve a meaningful purpose. NSK has been developing a mechanized pooch that could one day serve and operate as a guide dog for the blind.
The company’s latest prototype builds on the work of the University of Electro-Communications (UEC), which unveiled its first model, the NR001, in 2005, followed by an updated version (NR002) in 2007. With this third iteration, unveiled late last month, NSK and UEC have added a Microsoft Kinect sensor, which allows it to more easily identify and navigate obstacles or stairs.
The new Kinect-based cyber-canine now features obstacle-detecting bumper sensors at its feet and researchers are trying to incorporate voice commands. The goal is to eventually equip the robot with GPS capabilities as a way to provide the blind and visually impaired more accurate directions.
The robotic guide dog (Robo-dog) is still in development, but the companies believes it should be available commercially by the year 2020.