Posted by: robotnews | March 23, 2006

Security Robots Aren’t Science Fiction Anymore

U0205183 Teo Yinling

Security and surveillance robots have evolved much since they were introduced in the early 80s. As technology improves over the years, new security robots can do much more and some are even replacing humans. There are some which are not just security robots only.

The world’s first autonomous security robot was developed at the Naval Postgraduate School- the ROBART I. It had collision avoidance sensors, but this research platform had no sense of absolute location within its indoor operating environment, and was thus strictly limited to navigating along preprogrammed patrol routes defined by the relative locations of individual rooms, periodically returning to a recharging station by homing on an optical beacon. From a security perspective, the platform could only detect suspected intruders, with no subsequent intelligent assessment capability to filter out nuisance alarms.

The second-generation follow-on to ROBART I was ROBART II , which also operated indoors, incorporating a multiprocessor architecture and augmented sensor suite in order to support enhanced navigation and intelligent security assessment. The addition of an absolute world model allowed ROBART II to:
(1) determine its location in world coordinates;
(2) create a map of detected obstacles; and
(3) better perform multisensor fusion on the inputs from its suite of security and environmental sensors . This last feature facilitated the implementation of a sophisticated threat assessment algorithm that significantly increased the probability of detection while virtually eliminating nuisance alarms.

In 2003, Wakamaru, an experimental Linux-powered humanoid robot was developed by Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries; The 3.3 foot tall, 60 pound robot is described as the first human-size robot capable of providing companionship or functioning as a caretaker and house sitter. The battery-operated robot moves about on wheels and recharges itself when its batteries run low.

Wakamaru has an internal software platform that was developed using MontaVista Software’s embedded Linux distribution and tool suite. Its project manager attributed the choice of embedded operating system to its “sophisticated software base” and “superior networking capabilities,” which enabled the team to “focus on the complex programming that makes this new robot human-like.” Additionally, the robust operating system also played an important role in enabling Wakamaru to service a household 24 hours a day.
Some of Wakamaru’s main difference with other security robots are:
(1) A robot that is friendly to people and useful for your life at home.
(2) Lives with family members. Speaks spontaneously in accordance with family member’s requirement. Has its own role in a family.
(3) Natural and enriched communication in accordance with life scenes. Recognizes approximately 10,000 words required for daily life and provides topics in accordance with life scenes and communicates in a friendly manner using gestures.
(4) Autonomous action in accordance with its own rhythm of life. The robot has its daily rhythm of life, moves in accordance with time and purpose, automatically charges its batteries and lives with family members.
Wakamaru was introduced into the Japanese market beginning in 2004, priced at about 1 million yen, which is approximately US $14,250.

The latest security robot would be the one by Hitachi. It is a proto-type security robot on wheels that stands 22-inches tall.


Hitachi’s robot has a parascope camera that protrudes from its head and though it appears awkward it can watch for suspicious changes in the landscape and send photos to a guard. The camera can swivel so the robot doesn’t have to do an about face to look around. The prototype which basically has a laptop on board for a brain can figure out the shortest path to a spot. When it gets there if something is missing or moved it can send back images to a security guard.
The “Star Wars”- looking robot still has problems with battery life and recognizing objects smaller than a soda can, but Japanese electronics maker believes the roving robot, which can figure out the best route to a spot on its own, is better than the stationary cameras now common for security.
Universities and even Honda Motor Corp. have developed robots that can recognized its location and objects moving, but many such robots require marks on the floor to pick up on its cameras. Another way robots figure out where they are is by global position system, using satellites.
At the present time Hitachi has no plans for commercialization of its prototype security robot, but in the future that could change and the future’s probably not to far away.

References:
http://home.kyodo.co.jp/modules/fstStory/index.php?storyid=233998
http://www.spawar.navy.mil/robots/

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Responses

  1. u0204438 Huang Shichao Alvin

    I noticed that none of the robots you mention are armed but rather are more like moving security cameras. In typical sci-fi shows, once an intruder is detected, you will see like 3 or 4 gun barrels rising out of the shell of the robot and taking aim at him/her. I guess it will be a long time before humans are comfortable enough to let a “hunk of metal” carry around weapons capable of causing hurt. Paradoxically, a lot of our modern machinery of war is controlled by microchips, so perhaps we should think about why we allow our computers to control cruise missiles and nuclear bombs but not light weapons like stun tazers. I’m guessing the primary reason is because the amount of stuff we need to add onto the robot to use the weapon with any degree of accuracy would end up making it too expensive.

  2. u0303819 Ang Yong Chee

    This is in response to Alvin’s comment .

    Actually i thought that the decision to launch stuff like nuclear bombs and crusie missiles lie with the the government ( In the case for U.S , the President )and the vessels captains respectively .

    The computers only serve to guide the missiles in the correct path . The decision to fire or not remains exclusively and solely on the human authority and his assessment of the situation .

    As for domestic robots armed with small fire arms against intruders , i thought it is a vey dangerous idea . What if it is your visiting mum who has the keys to your home , will the robot mistake her for an intruder and start shooting her down and you only discover this tragedy when you reach home !?

    I thought a robot that is able to alert you or the police immediately if it detects intrusion is good enough . It’s best if the police are quick and efficient or in the worst case , there is no need to deal such physical harm just for burglary ..lol

  3. u0300654 Li Junbin

    I agree with Yong Chee’s comment. You can’t have autonomous robot handling dangerous weapons. That will be too life threatening. Furthermore, i think reseachers are skeptical on designing a hazardous robot. What if the robot lies in the wrong hands, say the terrorist ? What do you think of the consequences? On the top of that, if one day an autonomous robot can be as intelligent as human, probably we need to be caution as the robots might “overthrow” us.

  4. u0205044 Yan Meixian

    The security robot introduced by Hitachi can move around and so is a better surveillence system as compared to a conventional camera. Is the camera able to monitor the scene from all directions? If a person sneaks from behind while the camera is looking in the front direction and covers the camera with a cloth, will the robot be able to detect that? Else, the robot will lose its functionality.
    Also, I think such a robot will be efficient if the security guard at the monitoring room is on the alert the whole time too. Else, even if a disturbance is detected and no action is done by the guard, the robot is still deemed ineffective.

  5. U0205109 Wu Jinjia

    Although the surveillance robot by Hitachi is indeed an improvement in the area of security, its main con is the ability to recognise small objects. Markings on the floor are required in order for it to pick up on its cameras, which is not very practical. I guess this is an area which the industry currently still do not have a matured enough technology to achieve.


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