The robot, called MARON-1, has a shape that resembles a vacuum cleaner with an upside-down fishbowl attached to the top. Underneath the bowl are two digital cameras that have the look of disembodied eyeballs, but serve to remind users of the purpose of the new Japanese machine -- security and surveillance.
One of MARON's main functions, according to Fujitsu, is to monitor homes or offices for intrusions, or for checking up on persons requiring special care and monitoring. The 32cm x 36cm x 32cm robot, built by one of the biggest technology companies in gadget-happy Japan, comes equipped with digital cameras, a telephone, an alarm cock and other surveillance equipment.
With its digital cameras, MARON can take pictures of an unoccupied home, which can be relayed to a mobile phone, or simply stored for later inspection. Such images can be recorded on demand through a mobile phone, the company said, or at pre-determined intervals throughout the day at various locations throughout the house. If an intruder is detected, MARON can sound an alarm and call a pre-set number.
The electronic sentinel's ability to receive orders via an NTT DoCoMo mobile is possible thanks to the inclusion of a PHS communication card in the unit, along with specially designed "i-appli" software, Fujitsu said.
"It is expected that robots will increasingly be used in personal applications and in the future will come to help out around the house as part of people's everyday lives," Fujitsu said when it unveiled the new automaton on Monday. "MARON-1 represents an initial step toward realising that vision."
For moving about, the electric-powered 5kg machine is mounted on wheels and can travel forward and backward with a tight turning radius. In addition, by storing the home's layout in the robot's memory, the owner can give the robot a destination, and it will automatically navigate to that point, avoiding obstacles and manoeuvring over door saddles and other surface gradations along the way, Fujitsu claimed.
Other notable functions on the robot include its ability to operate home IR-equipped appliances, such as VCRs, televisions and air conditioners. It also can also serve as a home phone and offers one touch dialling.
Fujitsu's previous developments in the robotics field include HOAP-1, announced in September 2001. This robot, which was a test platform for bipedal locomotion, is now being distributed by Fujitsu Automation Limited.