Press Release

NSK Improves LIGHBOT™ (Guide Robot with Indoor Navigation and Obstacle Avoidance)

~Improved Handling for Practical Application~


NSK Ltd. (NSK; Headquarters: Tokyo, Japan; President and CEO: Toshihiro Uchiyama) today announced that it has developed improvements for its guide robot that is equipped with indoor navigation and obstacle avoidance by adding new features that make it safer and more convenient than ever. NSK worked in cooperation with the Kanagawa Rehabilitation Center (Atsugi, Kanagawa Prefecture) in a nearly real usage environment to perform about a half a year’s worth of demonstration testing for its obstacle-avoidance, navigation-equipped guide robot in fiscal 2014. This newly developed robot is an improved product that reflects the lessons learned during that testing.

NSK will exhibit this robot at the International Robot Exhibition 2015 to be held at Tokyo Big Sight (Koto-ku, Tokyo) from Wednesday, December 2 to Saturday, December 5.

NSK is currently engaged in further improvements of the reliability of this robot, for practical application slated for the fall of 2016.

Product Features

(1)Improved interface for greater convenience
The current robot interface required multiple button operations by the user to select the destination, and then the user would hold the grip to have the robot guide it to the specified destination. This robot is designed to provide guidance to all hospital visitors specifically in the elderly regardless of visual impairment.
There is now a touch panel that allows non-visually impaired patients to easily select their destination. This makes it easier for such patients to find their way around large hospitals that have as many as 40 different departments. In the case of a visually impaired patient who cannot use the touch panel, the hospital staff will set the destination for them. Also, there is a remote control available should a visually impaired patient need to stop midway (go to the restroom, etc.).
(2)Considerations for elderly users
The current robot grip height was 110 centimeters from the ground, which turned about to be too high for short elderly users, because it required them to raise their hands higher than their shoulders, which was very tiring. This new robot's grip is 96 centimeters from the ground, a setting that was based on the average height of elderly patients (the majority demographic of intended users; body height 158 centimeters) that was derived from MEXT statistical data*.
*:2014 Survey of Physical Strength and Capability by the Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture,Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT)
(3) Improved reliability of existing functions
NSK has kept and improved the reliability of the following existing functions based on the lessons learned during development:
  • Detects ceiling markers located on each floor, making it possible to use elevators for indoor navigation in buildings.
  • Voice guidance for awareness of surroundings.
  • Easy to recharge. No need to remove the battery.

Anticipated Applications

NSK has developed a wheeled robot capable of detecting obstacles, avoiding them and stopping as necessary when there is a barrier. This technology is designed to serve as a substitute for guide and service dogs, improving wheelchair functionality and supporting mobility for the elderly. It helps in guiding many people, namely the visually impaired and elderly, in environments that are difficult to navigate—for example, visiting a place for the first time and/or visiting an unfamiliar place such as a hospital, office building or commercial facility.

In addition, this new robot will also help to reduce the workload of building personnel needed to escort and explain to visitors where to go.

Support from Various Foundations

  • Kanagawa Prefecture: NSK appointed to the Strategic project of Special Zone for Robotics Industry(the Sagami Area)in Kanagawa prefecture. This association affords NSK introductions to demonstration testing locations and test subjects.
  • Kanagawa Rehabilitation Center: This center's staff provides NSK with advice and cooperation for the visually impaired as well as with help and advice concerning the demonstration of testing at hospitals.
  • Ministry of Health Labour and Welfare of Japan: NSK selected as Projects for Developing Assistive Products in fiscal 2014 and 2015.
  • The Kanagawa Branch of JRPS (Japanese Retinitis Pigmentosa Society) : NSK obtained cooperation of its members.