Robots: Scientists are developing a four-legged guide dog bone that can guide blind people around obstacles

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Guide dogs could soon be replaced by ROBOTS: scientists develop a four-legged bone that can guide blind people around obstacles and through narrow passages

  • The robot assistant was developed by researchers from California, USA.
  • He guides his handler by means of a leash, similar to how a real guide dog works
  • The setup has a laser mapping system and a camera to keep track of the handler
  • The team said the robot could reduce the cost of training guide dogs
  • However, it wouldn’t be able to fulfill the companionship role that real dogs do

A four-legged, robotic guide dog system that can guide the blind safely around obstacles and through narrow passages has been developed by American researchers.

Like a real assistance dog, the bot guides its user by means of a leash – which it can pull tight but also leave limp for better walking in tight turns.

The setup – built on a robotic design called a mini cheetah – includes a laser range system to map the environment and a camera to track the human guiding it.

Given an end point to be reached, the machine plots a simple route, adapting its course to obstacles and the movements of the handler.

The robot has the potential to reduce the time and cost of training guide dogs, although they would lack the mental and social benefits of a real animal.

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A four-legged, robotic guide dog system (shown) that can guide the blind safely around obstacles and through narrow passages has been developed by US experts

A four-legged, robotic guide dog system (shown) that can guide the blind safely around obstacles and through narrow passages has been developed by US experts

The setup - built on a design called a mini cheetah - features a laser range system to map the environment and a camera to track the human leading it

The setup - built on a design called a mini cheetah - features a laser range system to map the environment and a camera to track the human leading it

The setup – built on a design called a mini cheetah – features a laser range system to map the environment and a camera to track the human leading it

Lead researcher and roboticist Zhongyu Li of the University of California, Berkeley, the training of mechanical guide dogs would be scalable.

‘With the help of a robot guide dog, we can transfer our code directly from one robot to another,’ he said New scientist

‘As time goes by and the hardware becomes more affordable, we can actually use these types of dogs to help and serve people.’

In their study, Mr. Li and colleagues created the bot that guided three blindfolded people around an obstacle course, the enclosed narrow section less than a meter wide – and they reported that it turned out to be successful in any case.

The tight turns tested the machine’s ability to divert without keeping the belt tight at all times, as the track was too narrow to fit the turning circle of both the robot dog and the handler.

In the future, the team envisions people being able to sync their computer or smartphone calendars with the robot, which can then automatically take them to their appointments using GPS navigation.

“Our robot dog has a way of intelligence about navigation, from point A to point B,” Li told New Scientist.

‘A real dog knows nothing about navigating. This is an advantage of our dog. ‘

Given an end point to be reached, the machine plots a simple route, adapting its course to obstacles and the movements of the handler.

Given an end point to be reached, the machine plots a simple route, adapting its course to obstacles and the movements of the handler.

Given an end point to be reached, the machine plots a simple route, adapting its course to obstacles and the movements of the handler.

Tim Stafford – a spokesperson for UK charity Guide Dogs – told New Scientists that he supported the concept of robot guides if it would help people with visual impairments lead more independent lives.

That said, guide dog owners will regularly talk about their dog’s impact on their own lives and wellbeing. They value their dog as a partner, companion and family member, as well as a guide dog, ‘he added.

“It is this deep bond that makes the relationship unique and so much more than just a way to move around safely.”

A pre-print of the researcher’s article can be found on the arXiv repository

BOSTON DYNAMICS ‘SPOT

Boston Dynamics first showed SpotMini, the most advanced robotic dog ever created, in a video posted in November 2017.

The company, best known for Atlas, its 1.7-meter humanoid robot, has unveiled a new ‘lightweight’ version of its Spot Mini robot.

The robotic dog was shown trotting around a yard, promising more information from the notoriously secretive company to come ‘soon’.

“SpotMini is a small four-legged robot that fits comfortably in an office or home,” the company says on its website.

It weighs 25 kg (55 lb) or 30 kg (66 lb) including the robot arm.

SpotMini is fully electric and can charge for about 90 minutes depending on what it does, the company says, proudly saying “SpotMini is the quietest robot we’ve built.”

SpotMini was first unveiled in 2016, and an earlier version of the spotlight’s mini version with a strange retractable neck was found to help throughout the house.

The company’s previous video shows the robot exiting the company’s headquarters into what appears to be a house.

There, it helps load a dishwasher and carries a can to the trash.

It also encounters a fallen banana peel at one point and falls dramatically – but uses its extendable neck to push itself back up.

SpotMini is one of the quietest robots we’ve ever built, the company says, thanks to its electric motors.

It has a variety of sensors, including depth cameras, a solid state gyro (IMU), and limb proprioception sensors.

‘These sensors help with navigation and mobile manipulation.

‘SpotMini performs some tasks autonomously, but often uses a person for guidance at a high level.’

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