Kinect-run Smartpal robot cleans mom's house

Yasukawa's Smartpal VII telepresence robot can help you tidy up from hundreds of miles away.

Tim Hornyak/CNET

You can kinda be in two places at once with telepresence robots, but most machines limit you to chatting with folks on the other end and moving around. They don't even have arms.

Japanese industrial robot maker Yaskawa Electric, known for its Motoman line of robot arms, has been improving its Smartpal service robot since 2005. Once conceived as a robot bartender, the latest generation Smartpal VII is a Kinect-controlled telepresence tool that lets users tidy up at mom's house from hundreds of miles away.

That was the scenario Yaskawa presented recently at the iRex 2011 robot trade show in Tokyo, where it held a demo.

While a staffer moved his arms around in front of a Kinect, Smartpal mimicked his motions, picking up stuffed animals and tidying up, as seen in the vid below.

Now lighter and more compact, Smartpal has two arms, two stereo cameras that pan and tilt, and can move around on a wheeled base. It can swivel and bend at the waist to pick up objects on the floor.

It has touch, infrared, and gyro sensors as well as a noncontact recharging system to prevent electric shocks.

Like Honda's Asimo, Smartpal hasn't been released yet, but since there's already an emerging market for telepresence robots it may be closer to becoming a product. Yaskawa admits, though, that it hasn't figured out what the target market might be.

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