Crime-fighting Robots Now Assigned to Zap Germs

Initially built to prevent crime and assist people in need, ZMP security robots now are outfitted with disinfectant sprayers to rid public spaces of germs and bacteria and help reduce the spread of COVID-19 in shared public areas.


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Image credit: ZMP

Japanese company ZMP is hoping its security robots can help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Known for its fleet of autonomous robots, which includes the Patoro, DeliRo, and RakuRo robots, ZMP recently added an electrostatic sprayer to its Patoro unmanned security robot, enabling it to disinfect high-traffic areas, including handrails, turnstiles, elevator buttons, and doorknobs in public areas.

The box-like Patoro robot measures less than three feet long, two feet wide, and four feet tall. This allows Patoro to fit in elevators, aisles, security terminals, and other compact spaces. It uses artificial intelligence, deep learning, and image recognition software to enable autonomous navigation. 

The robots are equipped with RoboSense 3D-LiDAR sensors, infrared sensors that detect the distance and shapes of the surrounding environment. These sensors also help the Patoro to detect blind spots when moving. The robot can be pre-programmed with a map of a facility, enabling autonomous navigation. It also can be remotely controlled using ZMP’s Robo-Hi cloud-based management system.

Robot Patrol

The Patoro was built originally to handle patrol and security functions. With four integrated cameras powered by the Intel® Core™ i7 processor, the Patoro has 360-degree visual capabilities. The front camera uses the ZMP RoboVision two-lens stereo camera, which can measure depth, detect obstacles, and monitor its surroundings. The Patoro robot continuously captures images and collects other security data, which is sent via Robo-Hi to security companies or the local police. 

Recently added thermal detection infrared cameras allow the Patoro to detect individuals inside or outside a building or other structure. If the robot detects a suspicious person,* it can follow them at a maximum speed of 20 kilometers per hour (almost 12.5 mph) and will notify the police simultaneously.

The Patoro isn’t just for police patrols, however. ZMP created a smartphone app that allows people to call a robot for assistance. Using personalized QR codes and GPS capabilities, the robot can be dispatched from its home location to escort or aid individuals in need. The Patoro interacts with people using voice commands and “facial” expressions, specifically by adapting its big, robotic eyes. If additional assistance is required, the Patoro can send an alert to officials; the robot can also be dispatched to a location using a panic button. 

Added Sprayer Functionality 

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, ZMP added electrostatic sprayers to the Patoro to allow the robot to disinfect areas that could pose a health threat to humans. The optional electrostatic sprayers use the existing cameras and sensors to detect the proper areas to spray, or it can be programmed to spray the disinfectant in specific locations. It can spray while moving but will stop if it detects a person. It can also be remotely controlled and monitored while in disinfection mode. The spray reaches about 7 meters (22 feet). 

ZMP tested the sprayers over the summer at the Tsukishima and Takanawa Gateway train stations in Tokyo. One robot was used at each station, and each was pre-programmed with a map of the station. The robot’s electrostatic sprayers disinfected ticket counters and handrails in the restrooms. The Patoro robots successfully sprayed the disinfectant while moving. The company reports from the test run that the robots did have some issues automatically adjusting the height of the sprayers.

An unmanned disinfection test of the robots’ electrostatic sprayers was also conducted at Shinkansen Underground Mall ESCA and the Shinjuku Subnade, two underground shopping malls in Japan. A robot was programmed to disinfect doorknobs and the floor of specific stores after closing at each location. 

ZMP hopes its Patoro robots can create cleaner and safer public environments. The accessibility of the robots and their multiple features make them great additions to help contain the spread of COVID-19.  

 *Intel is committed to respecting human rights and avoiding complicity in human rights abuses. See Intel’s Global Human Rights Principles. Intel’s products and software are intended only to be used in applications that do not cause or contribute to a violation of an internationally recognized human right.


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