In terms of complexity, it's far from being classified as a 'robot' or robotic application - it's way too simple. Yet the new toilet guidance signs being rolled out in Japan do give a taste of the future.
The signs include maps showing the rest room layout, carefully positioning each individual toilet stall and urinal. And they play spoken instructions telling you how far to walk and what turns you have to make to reach your destination.
This particular rest room sign, captured by Gary Wolff - a long time Japan resident and actor, is at Chofu station. I've seen a few others, including one in Shinagawa that incorporates LEDs in the sign indicating which stalls are currently in use. Welcome to a brave new world...
Related links: Japanese talking toilet guidance sign - YouTube
If you think this tiny autonomous micromouse robot kind of sounds like a vacuum cleaner, you could be right. Maintaining adequate traction on the maze floor while running at high speeds is always a challenge, and builders have attempted quite a few different strategies to solve the problem.
David Otten, who has been involved in micromouse competitions since the very beginning, fielded some early vacuum style designs quite a few years ago with mixed results. More recently builders, like Hidejr1053 whose robot appears in the video below, have refined their design approaches and are achieving very impressive results.
I'm wondering what the limiting factors will be, now that they have successfully addressed the traction issues. What is the next constraint that limits cranking up the robot speed even further? And, what is the theoretical upper limit on speed?
It's going to be interesting to see what records are broken as the 2013 series of micromouse competitions gets underway.
Related links: micromouse_AVCHD_60p_test - YouTube