Japanese company NSK has pulled off the mother of all Kinect hacks, and all they had to do was build a fully functioning robotic dog around Microsoft’s gaming peripheral. With help from Tokyo-based University of Electro-Communications, NSK has built a robotic guide dog for the visually impaired that uses a Kinect to evaluate and understand its environment and help its owner safely navigate.
The wheeled canine is activated when the user puts pressure on its handle, letting it know the user is ready to go. The robo-dog then speaks to the user in a computerized female voice, giving the user details about the environment and potential obstacles and commands on how to negotiate them. The robo-dog glides on its wheels on flat surfaces, but it can also climb up and down stairs and other obstacles if it needs to.
Future iterations will include voice commands (from user to robotic pooch) and GPS for better navigation. In the meantime, the laboratory prototype is still pretty impressive, if a bit loud.