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A robot that can track specific people and follow them around

Telling humans apart and following them as they move in their surrounding environment could be two highly valuable skills for service robots. In fact, when combined, these two capabilities would allow robots to follow specific people as they are interacting with them or offering their assistance.

Researchers at Monash University, JDQ Systems and University of British Columbia recently developed a service robot designed to assist residents at elderly care homes or patients at other healthcare facilities. In a paper pre-published on arXiv, they presented a computational technique that allows their robot to identify and track people in its vicinity, following specific users as they are assisting them.

"Our team has been developing a socially assistive robot platform, Aether, for providing daily routine assistance to staff and residents at elderly care and assisted living facilities," Wesley P. Chan, one of the researchers who carried out the study, told TechXplore. "Working with our partnering facilities, we identified a few important skills for our robot, which include escorting a resident to the dining hall for meals, following a staff member to the next location where it is needed or playing a game of tag with residents to encourage exercise. All these skills require our robot to be able to identify and locate the people in its surroundings, as well as follow them."

Scientists have developed face recognition tools, which allow robots to identify people but not follow their movements, and anonymous person tracking techniques, which allow robots to track a person's movements without knowing who they are. In order to follow specific people, however, a robot would need to simultaneously determine who they are and track their movements.

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