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Toshiba to Bring its New “ApriAlpha” Concept Model Robot to ROBODEX 2003

20 March, 2003

Home-use robot integrates new software supporting
simplified development of multi-functional robots

Concept models of ApriAlpha
Concept models of ApriAlpha

Tokyo--Toshiba Corporation today announced that it had developed a sophisticated home robot that could carry out multiple tasks around home. “ApriAlpha” integrates voice recognition and voice synthesis technologies that allow it to hold conversations with people, and image recognition technology that allows it to recognize people whose features are recorded to the robot’s memory. A newly developed “Open Robot Controller” with distributed object technology also allows ApriAlpha to be quickly and easily programmed to carry out new tasks.

Concept models of ApriAlpha will be featured at the ROBODEX 2003 Exhibition at Pacifico Yokohama from April 3, 2003, including a version with a direct methanol fuel cell, a supplementary power supply to recharge the main battery.

Broadband networks will soon move into home. Managed by home servers and linking personal computers, digital televisions and other networked home appliances, these powerful networks will support diverse functions and services.

Toshiba has developed ApriAlpha to function as a user-friendly interface between the equipment in a home network and the people who use it. This innovative approach positions ApriAlpha as a “Robotic Information Home Appliance” that allows users to effortlessly operate equipment connected to the home network.

Toshiba continues to develop ApriAlpha with an ultimate objective of achieving a “life support partner”, able to provide support and handle household chores and also help to provide care for the aged. Developing functionality will also allow ApriAlpha to perform light tasks.

The “ApriAlpha” concept model has the following capabilities:

1. Communication Functions

  • Spoken Instructions: A voice-recognition function enables ApriAlpha to follow spoken instructions
  • Voice Detection: Called from a distance, ApriAlpha will detect and move toward the speaker.
  • Speech: Voice synthesis capabilities allow ApriAlpha to synthesize speech. This function also allows ApriAlpha to read e-mail.
  • Face Recognition: Image-recognition technology allows ApriAlpha to recognize up to 100 individuals. The robot is also able to follow a person.

2. Transmission Functions

  • Wireless LAN: IEEE802.11b wireless LAN capability is integrated into ApriAlpha. This can forward images from ApriAlpha’s camera to mobile information terminals. The LAN also supports remote supervision and operation of ApriAlpha from outside home, including remote control from DoCoMo i-mode FOMA mobile phone.
  • Control of Home Appliances: BluetoothTM allows ApriAlpha to communicate with—and control—networked home appliances via a BluetoothTM compliant home server.
  • Infrared Remote Control: Infrared remote control enables ApriAlpha to act as a voice-activated multi-purpose remote control for home appliances.

3. Movement Functions

  • Surveillance Patrol: Data on the layout of premises can be used to automatically create a route for surveillance patrols of designated areas.
  • Obstacle Avoidance: Ultrasonic sensors detect obstacles when ApriAlpha is in motion, and the robot automatically avoids them.
  • Operation Time: Up to two hours of uninterrupted operation.
  • Fuel Cells: Direct methanol fuel cells can be used to provide back up power.

The Advantages of ApriAlpha

Toshiba’s ApriAlpha is a sophisticated amalgamation of diverse technologies that Toshiba previously developed for industrial, space, and nuclear-facility-maintenance robots. It also has Toshiba’s advanced voice-recognition and voice-synthesis technologies for car navigation systems, and the image recognition technology used for security systems. Using these technologies significantly minimizes software development effort.

Even more important than its numerous built-in functions and capabilities is ApriAlpha’s integration of Open Robot Controller Architecture (ORCA) with HORB* distributed object technology, which allows simple additions of new functions and upgrades of present functions. This architecture is integrated into a newly developed controller that is completely independent of the CPU and OS, and that supports technologies essential for robots, including motion control, data transmission, image processing, audio processing, and processing of data from various sensors. ORCA allows manufacturers to quickly and easily integrate software developed by third parties into their systems, achieving efficient development of advanced robots in a relatively short period.

Toshiba expects ORCA to play a key role in advancing the use of robots in a variety of fields. Toshiba is negotiating with a number of other manufacturers, universities and research laboratories working on robot development to promote ORCA as a widely accepted controller standard.

* The HORB distributed object technology was developed in a research project supported by Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST).

Key specifications

Key specifications
* Numbers in parenthesis indicate number of units.

Information in the press releases, including product prices and specifications, content of services and contact information, is current on the date of the press announcement,but is subject to change without prior notice.

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