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Preferred system releases transport robot for home, can carry up to 20 kg such as tableware and books

A subsidiary of AI venture Preferred Networks (PFN) is launching a robot that carries things for the home. It is a type that pulls a dedicated shelf with casters, and when instructed by voice, it moves tableware, books, etc. in the shelf to the specified place ( Fig. 1 ). Until now, transport robots have been used for industrial purposes, such as transporting products on shelves in distribution warehouses and serving food at restaurants, but they are finally entering the household. The price starts from 228,000 yen (tax included). Preferred Robotics (PFRobotics), which is a spin-out from PFN and is engaged in robot development, will release it in May 2023 under the product name “Kachaka”.

This robot can recognize and avoid obstacles with various sensors. In the home, in preparation for the risk of the robot tipping over or things falling, the robot carries special items on the shelves and carries items that can be stored there. In logistics warehouses, there are cases where shelves weighing several hundred kg or more and several meters high are carried, but the robot this time can carry up to 20 kg, including the weight of the dedicated shelf. There are two types of shelves, two-tiered and three-tiered, and the maximum height is about 70 cm, which is about the size of a small wagon. The running speed is slower than a person walking, and the maximum speed is 40 cm per second.

 There are two main types of transport robots that carry objects: the towing type and the lifting type. A dedicated shelf is equipped with wheels, and the robot crawls under the shelf and pulls it while connecting it to the bottom of the shelf ( Fig. 2 ) Note 1) . In contrast, the robots used in distribution warehouses by companies such as in the United States are of the lifting type. However, since the lifting type only puts a shelf on top of the robot, there is a risk that the shelf will topple over if the robot stops suddenly.

Fig. 2 The upper part of the robot and the lower part of the shelf are connected
Fig. 2 The upper part of the robot and the lower part of the shelf are connected
The cylindrical part of the robot (framed in red on the left side of the photo) is connected to the projection on the shelf side (framed in red on the right side of the photo) and carried. When the infrared sensor detects the projection on the bottom of the shelf, the cylindrical cover is lifted. (Source: Nikkei Crosstech)
[Click image to enlarge]

 The robot body also needed to be downsized so that it could turn in tight spaces in the home, and a towing type was suitable for this as well. In the lifting type, the weight of the objects to be transported, such as shelves, is all applied to the robot side, so the motor for lifting requires a large torque, and the robot itself tends to be large. Since the robot this time moves while grounding the wheels of the dedicated shelf to the floor, the weight of the transported item is practically not applied to the robot side, and the size can be reduced.

Note 1) The name of the robot, “Kachaka”, comes from the sound that the robot makes when it connects with the shelf.

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