DigInfoTV presented Sharp which has developed a vacuum cleaning robot called Cocorobo, which uses the Cocoro Engine artificial intelligence capability. This product is the first in a planned series of robot appliances which can communicate with people.
Cocorobo features a speech recognition engine developed by Raytron, so it can be controlled by voice, as well as using its buttons or the remote control. It has also been given the ability to say simple greetings, with the idea being that a vacuum cleaner can communicate like a pet robot.
"For example, if you use Cocorobo every day, or speak to it every day, it gets in a good mood. Depending on how it feels, its words and movements vary a lot, so you can gain a feeling of closeness with it. Regarding Cocorobo's learning capability, we're planning upgrades that will make it evolve rapidly."
Cocorobo also has a 1.3-megapixel camera, a LED light, and wireless LAN connectivity. This enables the user to check the state of a room remotely, with apps available for both Android and iOS.
"By connecting to it over the internet with your smartphone, you can use the observation capabilities. Cocorobo moves 50 cm away from its charging stand, and then takes four photos at 90 degree intervals, covering 360 degrees. You can check these with your smartphone. You can also use the smartphone like a radio controller, to move Cocorobo forward or rotate it while watching the streaming video. If you set Cocorobo to automatic, you can also keep watching it move."
As a vacuum cleaner, Cocorobo has a Power Vacuum System developed by Sharp. This sweeps up dirt with side brushes, catches it with a rotating brush, and sucks it in with a turbo fan running at 14,000 rpm. In this way, Cocorobo catches minute particles of dirt trapped in flooring. This makes it especially suited to Japanese living environments, where flooring is very common.
"Cocorobo now avoids obstacles by using ultrasound sensors, in an echolocation system. There are three sensors, on the front and 45 degrees to either side. With infrared sensors, transparent glass and black furniture can't be recognized, so Cocorobo would bump into them. But with ultrasound sensors, it recognizes those items from the reflected sound waves, so it isn't prone to bumping into things."
Cocorobo uses iron phosphate lithium batteries, which don't tend to suffer from memory effects. This gives it a battery life of about three years or 1,200 charges.
Cocorobo is to be released in early June. The full featured version, the RX-V100, will be priced around US$1,600 (130,000 yen), and the basic version without a camera, the RX-V80, will be around US$1,100 (90,000 yen).
"We'd like robot appliances based on Cocoro Engine to become widespread. This robot vacuum cleaner is one aspect of that, and we're considering new developments for products in the second and third phases."