Hitachi is working on an R2D2-like security robot on wheels that can map out its surroundings using infrared sensors and a camera to detect missing items, suspicious packages and intruders.
The 22-inch tall robot, which looks like a trash can and is reminiscent of the small, beeping robot in "Star Wars," has a swiveling camera that protrudes like a periscope, enabling it to watch for suspicious changes in the landscape and send photos to a guard, Hitachi said Tuesday.
The Japanese electronics maker has no commercial product plans so far but 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, researcher Toshio Moriya said.
The prototype, which has a laptop aboard with a wireless connection, still has plenty of hurdles to clear, such as prolonging battery life, company officials said. And it can't dodge obstacles or recognize things smaller than a coke bottle.
Tokyo-based Hitachi didn't even show the robot to reporters, saying it was being upgraded. Shown instead were video clips of the machine scuttling around an office like a vacuum cleaner.
Various universities and companies, including Japanese automaker Honda Motor Co., have created and displayed robots that recognize its location and movements.
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.