Guide, guard, gatekeeper: an all-in-one Taiwan robot

Tue Nov 17, 2009 4:02am EST
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article
[-] Text [+]

TAIPEI (Reuters Life!) - Taiwan researchers have invented an robot that can act as a receptionist, tour guide, security guard and doctor's aide, the latest offering from an island seeking to make its name in the global robotics market.

The 60 kg (132 lb) interactive robot named Monica can film, then recognize people well enough to admit them into an office building or send an emergency text message to a human security guard, project leader Ren Luo said on Tuesday.

Sensory functions also allow it to interact remotely between doctors and patients, especially when a patient falls.

Tourists could also use the 100 cm (39.4 inch) tall robot to give them directions.

"Within the robot community, this is pretty impressive because it can replace so many human functions," said Luo, a professor at National Taiwan University.

Long a powerhouse for personal computers, Taiwan is eyeing a share of the $18 billion robotics market, taking on larger foreign rivals such as Japan as margins in the island's chip and PC industries come under pressure.

Taiwan aims to take a 7 percent share of the global robotics market and exports worldwide, worth T$250 billion ($7.8 billion) by 2015, according to Taiwan's Precision Machinery Research & Development Center.

Four university instructors, funded by T$58 million ($1.81 million) from the Taiwan government, spent the past year building a pair of Monica robots, which powered up on Monday.

The researchers have already spoken with a manufacturer about mass producing Monica for consumers, Luo said. Current price tag is T$400,000 Taiwan dollars ($12,500), he said.

Developers globally are also working on robots for household assistance and dangerous tasks normally performed by humans, including bomb detection and disposal.

(Reporting by Ralph Jennings, editing by Miral Fahmy)