Yaskawa uses Microsoft's Kinect as a robot controller (video)

Kinect controllers are being used to remotely move robots, allowing people to physically help or assist others across vast distances.
Written by Hana Stewart-Smith, Contributor

Microsoft's Kinect may have had some troubles establishing itself as a consumer games console controller, but when it was put in the hands of hackers it became something else entirely. Microsoft itself has suggested ventures outside of gaming with the capabilities of their unique motion sensing technology.

Earlier this month, Yaskawa Electric displayed exactly what kind of uses the Kinect might find outside of gaming, by using the console as a controller for their new project, the Smartpal VII -- a new robot designed to mimic the abilities and functions of its user.

The company recently revealed the latest in their line of service robots with a brand new control system, the Microsoft Kinect.

Kinect can be used to remotely control the robot so that, for example, a user could remotely help their mother across the country with household tasks. With an integrated stereo camera and a Kinect set up, it will be possible to communicate and assist people remotely.

This video shows the Smartpal VII picking up toys from the floor, demonstrating the precision with which the robot can be controlled.

Whilst the Kinect can only really be used to make broad gestures of movement, the robot itself is capable of then interpreting those movements into actions with a variety of sensors. The infrared sensors incorporated into its 'head' also help the robot to move autonomously without remote input, so that it could be used as an assistant.

Considering that the 'Roomba' has been such a success, it is not hard to see the use of a robot that can tidy up for you too, especially one that could be controlled using your kid's games console -- perhaps creating a brand new 'game' to get those household chores done.

Although the exact use of the Smartpal VII has yet to be decided, the interesting choice to incorporate the Kinect as a remote control device suggests that it might be the latest in a line of helpful 'service' robots, designed to assist those in need.

Also revealed at the International Robot Exhibition was a robotic dog for the visually impared from NSK. Whilst not as cute and fluffy as a labrador, and though it somewhat looks like a miniature Imperial AT-AT walker, the robot dog could be the perfect solution for those with fur allergies.


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