NSK developing Kinect-laced robotic guide dog for the blind (video)

Have you ever looked at a robotic dog, scratched your head and thought, "Why?" Well, NSK has just responded with a pretty valid "Because." Turns out, the Japanese manufacturer is working on a new mechanized canine that could one day serve as a guide dog for the blind. The company's latest prototype builds on the work of the University of Electro-Communications (UEC), which unveiled its first model, the NR001, in 2005, followed by an updated version (NR002) in 2007. With this third iteration, unveiled late last month, NSK and UEC have added a Microsoft Kinect sensor, which allows it to more easily identify and navigate obstacles or stairs. The quadrupedal beast can also scamper up and down steps with more grace than its predecessors, which moved more like arthropods than actual dogs. The bot's paws have also been equipped with obstacle-avoiding bumper sensors, and researchers are working on incorporating voice commands, as well. NSK says its guide dog could eventually feature GPS capabilities to provide more accurate directions for the blind and visually impaired, though it'll probably be a while before it hits the pavement; the company hopes to commercialize the dogbot by 2020. Trot past the break to see the pup in action, in a pair of demo videos.