"Do you do windows?" "Negative!" Cleaning grimy highway rest stops is a job barely fit for humans, but never fear: the disturbingly cute, talking Lady Bird robot will begin scrubbing Japanese public toilets in 2009!
Lady Bird was conceived and built by a consortium of robotics companies commissioned by the West Nippon Expressway Company Limited (NEXCO). The technology is not exactly new, being roughly based on the popular Roomba and Scooba robot cleaners already patrolling home and apartment floors in Japan and elsewhere. (image via Kirainet)
Like the better robot vacuums, Lady Bird features obstacle sensors that help it avoid collisions with restroom fixtures and the occasional user. Speaking of the latter, Lady Bird is designed to be cute, friendly and helpful - this is Japan, after all. It displays a smiling face and a pair of stubby antennae that enable a very unique feature: speech recognition capability via a built-in voice synthesizer. Lady Bird can make conversation if spoken to!
Don't get too excited, you won't be engaging in any philosophical discussions with Lady Bird - but you're at a highway rest stop, remember? Instead, Lady Bird gives out useful information such as the latest traffic & weather conditions updated by Internet - probably "spoken" in a childlike female voice (Japan again).
"Quiet please, I am disinfecting!" Choose to ignore Lady Bird and "she" will industriously go about the business of scrubbing toilets and the surrounding areas. At 39 inches tall, 56 inches long and equipped with an on-board water tank, Lady Bird is anything but small and that goes for the price as well: a cool $30,000 per robot - but with no need to provide medical, dental or other benefits. Lady Bird may seem mundane to those who see Star Trek's "Data" as the ideal robot, but dirty, dangerous and undesirable jobs are where robots will first make their mark - or, in Lady Bird's case, scrub it away! (via Pink Tentacle)
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