Japanese companies Sanyo Electric Co. Ltd. and Tmsuk Inc. have developed a home robot that is capable of sensing intruders or smoke, and both sending that information to and being controlled by the owner's cell phone. The companies will start taking orders from next month and plan to initially sell 50 of the robots next year, they announced Wednesday.
The Banryu is 1 meter long, 80 centimeters tall and 70 centimeters wide, and weighs 40 kilograms. Its name in Japanese means a guarding dinosaur but it looks and moves more like a big bulldog with a pointed nose.
The robot can sense a person walking nearby or the smell of something burning, and let its owner know by howling or calling his or her cell phone. On receiving the call, the owner can control the Banryu with the cell phone and watch video images sent by cameras mounted on the robot. Its slow pace of movement means the robot can't chase intruders out of the house like a real dog.
The Banryu can also work as a speaker phone, allowing the owner to talk to people within earshot of Banryu. This telephone link and other remote communication is via Japan's PHS (Personal Handyphone System) network. For security reasons, an Internet connection is not used, the companies said.
Banryu walks at a speed of 15 meters per minute and can climb a step up to 15 centimeters in height. A single charge of the battery provides enough power for up to one hour, or the robot can be continuously operated with a long power cable.
The owner can switch the Banryu to one of three different operating modes: remote control mode, which allows for controlling the robot by a cell phone, care-taking mode, which allows the robot to take care of the house, and pet mode, which allows the robot to act like a pet dog. For example, when the owner commands "sit," or "paw," it obeys.
Sanyo and Tmsuk hope the Banryu will be adopted by consumers as a household security robot, although its price tag puts it out of the reach of all but the most wealthy individuals. They plan to release 50 robots in the second quarter of next year at a price somewhere under ¥2 million (US$16,410), and will then make a decision on when to start mass production, they said.
Fujitsu Laboratories Ltd. recently unveiled a home robot, which looks different to Banryu, but functions similarly. Fujitsu also hopes to commercialize the device within the next year.