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Segway’s Jeeves Sees All

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Mention a Segway and most of us think of the personal transporters favored by city tour guides or Kevin James’ character in the “Mall Cop” movies. That may soon change now that Segway Inc., in collaboration with Intel Corp., and Xiaomi Inc., a Chinese tech company, has created a new device that is both hoverboard and personal assistant.

Need to get somewhere?

The robot lets you ride around on its two wheels while in “riding mode.”

Need a helping hand — well, arm?

Step off the device, and it reverts to “robot mode,” recognizing and following its operator around like a diligent personal assistant. The company describes it as “a Segway that sees the world and a robot that gives you a ride.” Unveiled at last month’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES 2016) in Las Vegas, the self-balancing rideable robot is capable of any number of tasks, from transporting grocery bags to carrying laundry. It’ll even answer the door.

In appearance, it’s reminiscent of something you might see in an episode of “The Jetsons.” It’s basically a hoverboard with a smiling robot head affixed to a center pole. There are interfaces for physical extensions such as robotic arms that let you turn it into whatever you want it to be.

Depth-sensing camera for 3D tracking

Inside the smiling robot head is an array of sophisticated imaging and sensing technologies. Intel’s RealSense RGB-D depth sensor incorporates an IR laser projector giving the robot the ability to recognize and track objects in three dimensions, in conjunction with a powerful Intel Atom processor. The head also includes a fisheye tracking camera and an HD photo camera, too.

These camera and sensing technologies allow for “simultaneous localization and mapping,” or, the ability to spot and follow its operator. In addition, the device is equipped with Wi-Fi for connectivity to a wide range of smart and IoT-connected devices, allowing an owner to monitor what’s happening at home from afar.

As far as specifications, the device has many of the same features as the Ninebot Segway released last year, including 800-watt double motors, a top speed of about 18 km/h (about 11 mph) and a top range of 30 km/h for a single trip. (Beijing-based Ninebot Inc. acquired Segway Inc. last year.)

The rollout is part of a broader effort by the New Hampshire-based company to expand into the personal robotics line, in conjunction with Intel and Xiaomi, according to an announcement from the company.

Segway is still exploring different uses for the new platform, and plans to release a developer edition later this year (complete with a software development kit) allowing for greater customization. Commercial production is planned for early 2017. Say, Jeeves, could you get online and order mine?

All images courtesy of Segway.

Photonics Spectra
Feb 2016
Lighter Sidedepth-sensing cameraSegwayrobotConsumer Electronics ShowLas VegasIOTCESIR laserIntel Real-SenseMichael Wheeler

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