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CES: Honda unveils AI-equipped robot concepts

Empowering: One of Honda’s 3E concepts is an electric mobility scooter capable of operating in tight spaces and keeping occupants level on uneven surfaces.

3E robotics concepts envisage Honda’s AI-supported future with range of functions

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Honda logo11 Jan 2018

By ROBBIE WALLIS

HONDA has revealed a number of AI-enhanced robotics concepts at this week’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas that it believes can assist people and enrich their lives in the future.

Four different robotic concepts were rolled out by the Japanese manufacturer that are designed to assist in areas such as agriculture, mobility and compassion.

Dubbed ‘3E’, the concepts are designed to embody the principles of ‘empower’, ‘experience’ and ‘empathy’.

The first concept, called the D18, is designed as an autonomous workhorse for use in agricultural and manual labour settings, and features an electric drivetrain and flat top for a range of customisable uses.

Based on Honda’s ATV chassis, the D18 features all-wheel drive, aggressive airless tyres and sizeable off-road capability, and can operate autonomously thanks to inbuilt GPS and sensors that can guide it in nearly any environment.

The flat top surface of the D18 is capable of fitting a number of attachments, including simple racks, sprinkler fittings, and harvesting equipment, making it applicable for a number of work uses.

D18 is one of two concepts that embody the ‘empower’ principle, with the other being the B18 mobility device.

The B18 is an electric wheelchair-like device that can be outfitted with AI sensors for autonomous operation, and can be used casually in indoor and outdoor spaces.

It is capable of keeping its seat level in uphill and downhill situations, and can, with additional attachments, be used as a baggage cart or stroller.

Its small footprint and dimensions allow it to be particularly manoeuvrable in tight spaces, and is operated via battery power.

Representing the ‘Experience’ ethos is the C18 concept, a robotic device to be used as a mobile platform supporting the activities of businesses or entrepreneurs.

Shaped like a cart, it is equipped with a pop-up shelf and canopy, and can be used as a mobile coffee station, for example.

The C18 is capable of operating autonomously by observing how people act and responding accordingly, and can be equipped with a number of add-ons to suit the owner’s needs.

Lastly, the ‘Empathy’ principle is represented by the A18 robot, which Honda claims is capable of compassion and empathy towards people, while providing support for human activities.

Its AI capabilities mean it can communicate and cooperate with people, and perform functions such as a guide at airports and shopping centres, or analysing someone’s surroundings and expressions to help provide relevant information.

Its ability to provide comfort and empathy means it can be used in a similar way to service dogs, and as such is equipped with a soft exterior ‘skin’ that Honda says invites people to touch or hug the robot.

A display screen projects a range of facial expressions that facilitate communication between the robot and people.

Also revealed at CES was Honda’s Mobile Power Pack, a system Honda has designed to harness surplus renewable energy and store it in efficient, portable batteries.

Each power pack, for which every aforementioned robotic concept is compatible, has an output of 1kWh or more, and multiple power packs can be used simultaneously, meaning it can potentially power equipment such as electric motorcycles and small-sized electric mobility products.

Using swappable batteries also eliminates re-charging times associated with fixed-battery equipment.

Honda envisages that the power pack concept can be used to power multiple applications inside and outside the home.

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