Orange County – Back in 2006, Sony closed down its entertainment robotics division when consumers gave its egg-shaped robotic music player, dubbed Rolly, the cold shoulder. It seemed at the time that Sony was done with robots. But, a recently published patent application suggests that the Japanese electronics giant still sees a future for household robots. In fact, a recent patent application (No. 20140074292) describes a robot that looks like the company’s humanoid robot.
The patent mentions Japan’s rapidly aging population pointing out the need for a robot that can perform not only tasks around the house, but also provide nursing care by communicating with humans and doing work such as grasping or fetching objects.
Sony’s robot dog, Aibo, was featured in the late 1990s in commercials and in universities for educational purposes. Aibo’s humanoid companion, QRIO, was not designed to do much of anything resembling actual work. However, the new robot described in the patent has simpler gripper hands, which can actually lift and carry objects. Also, the legs have been replaced with more practical wheels.
The main focus of the patent is not the robot itself, but a self-diagnostic software system for cameras, which can differentiate between a scratch or dust on a camera lens by comparing multiple camera images. The manner in which these robots detect or recognize an object in a working space is based on the image taken by the camera. So, when the camera’s lens is dirty, it affects the robot’s ability to detect an object. This technology is important because the robot uses camera lenses to look at the world around it. If the robot, for example, is assigned to a task inside the home, a simple scratch on the lens might mislead the robot.
Although Sony has not issued an official announcement, this patent application would seem to signal the company’s return to robotics.
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