After 3 years of development and 6 million Euros invested, a group of scientists at Albert-Ludwigs University Freiburg’s faculty of Engineering today sent out a robot being develop to take on human tasks in a city center called “Obelix” on a 4 kilometer trial walk to Freiburg city center. The robot has a number of scanners and sensors which help it find its way, recognize and avoid stationary and moving objects like pedestrians. Although he could find his and the best way to most places in town, he had been programmed to wait and be directed in some areas because there are some objects like some signposts or small water streams, simply those not on his map or those they know or are not sure he could identify along the way, although he can “see” up to 80 meters away. Besides, he does not “understand” traffic lights yet, because he is colorblind and had to be controlled by hand. Otherwise with the way he has been programmed he can move more precisely than with any navigation system.
Obelix, who weighs about 100kg and is 1.70m tall, covered at least 3.2 km of the busy route “alone”, from the University faculty to Kaiser-Joseph street, the main shopping mile of the city, drawing the attention of lots of onlookers and of the media. He took about 1.5 hours after leaving the starting point at 9:45am to reach his destination at Bertoldsbrunnen in the city center.
Obelix was developed and attended to by a group of international computer scientists led by Freiburg University and includes some from Oxford University, ETH Zürich, Leuven (Belgium), the RWTH Aachen University (Germany) as well as the Swiss firm Bluebotics under the European Robotic Pedestrian Assistant project. Probably, Obelix could be developed to carry out some human tasks like shopping someday, act as a city guide, steer a wheel chair or assist old people, though there are several challenges that would need to be surmounted, including high production costs. A robot like Obelix is said to cost 125,000 euros (about $156,000) to produce.
Obelix can find his way back to the socket after a maximum of 8 hours of “work” to get his batteries re-charged.
One of OrbitUganda.com contributors, filmed him moving along Friedrichstr, near the main railway station to Rotteckring, crossed to Unterlinden, before disappearing towards the main shopping quarter.
See Obelix’s progress on Twitter at https://twitter.com/EuropaRobot (German).
Some reports in the press have described this as the world’s first robot of its nature.