Personal helper and service robots like Milo from RoboDynamics have been in development for some time. Milo was a pretty basic machine, however. It certainly didn't have the dexterity to twist open a bottle like Honda's most recent ASIMO. Nor could it gauge human reactions and crack jokes like the Pepper personal robot that's due to be released next year. Now helper robot company Savioke has announced that it is to start trialing service robots for hotels. The SaviOne robot can autonomously deliver items to guests in hotel rooms.
Savioke says it aims "to improve the lives of people by developing and deploying robotic technology in human environments," such as the places people live and work. Its SaviOne robot was designed specifically for use in the hospitality industry.
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The company spent 7 months researching and trying to understand the needs of end users like hotel staff and guests. An agile and iterative approach was taken to the development process, with Savioke conscious that there were few similar projects from which to draw inspiration.
"We made a working prototype that did something quickly and then added features and redesigned based on user feedback, our evolving understanding of the task and our notion of the minimum viable product we were developing," a Savioke spokesperson explains to Gizmag. "We built a working prototype each month for five months, hitting a milestone every two weeks, so that by the fifth month we had a prototype we could show to customers in hotels."
The prototypes each focused on a key aspect of the robot's design. For example, the ergonomic loading and unloading of the robot, providing an empathetic experience for the user and and ensuring that interaction was quick and easy for staff and intuitive and fun for guests. According to Savioke, the Google Ventures design team also contributed to the design and testing of SaviOne.
The first time SaviOne goes to a hotel, it travels around and maps the building. Hotel staff members then need only program in a particular room number and the robot knows how to get there. It uses a variety of sensors to navigate and move around, including depth cameras, sonar and laser rangefinders, and is able communicate with elevators via Wi-Fi.
SaviOne is based on Robot Operating System (ROS) technology, which is overseen by the Open Source Robotics Foundation. It is about 3 ft (0.9 m) tall, weighs less than 100 lb (45 kg), has a carrying capacity of 2 cubic ft (0.06 cu m), and is designed to travel at a human walking pace.
Savioke is still in a pilot phase with the SavOne robot, which is being trialed at the Aloft Hotel in Cupertino from this week.
The video below shows SaviOne in action.