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CanguRo robot is part transport, part best friend

CanguRo takes its name from the Italian word for kangaroo, but this particular robot prefers to roll than hop.

Unveiled this week in Japan, the three-wheeler is part autonomous assistant and part self-driving mobility vehicle.

It’s the creation of Shunji Yamanaka from the University of Tokyo and Takayuki Furuta of the Future Robotics Technology Center (fuRo) at Chiba Institute of Technology, Japan Trends reports.

As an assistant, CanguRo can follow you around, carrying heavy loads such as shopping to your home. But if your legs get tired and you’d prefer not to walk, a tap on the accompanying app will prompt the robot to quickly transform into a mobility vehicle that’ll transport you to your destination at a gentle speed of 6.2 mph (10 kmh).

Although it can drive autonomously using mapping and positioning data as well as image recognition technology, manual control is also possible, with the rider able to control the speed with a throttle, and the direction by leaning left or right. While in manual mode, a smart-stop feature will take over if a hazard is detected up ahead.

“With this machine, we aim to realize a complete fusion of robot technology and mobility,” Furuta told the Japan Times at the unveiling event this week.

CanguRo is still being developed — the team is currently working on giving it speech capabilities to offer the user a much more personal experience. Indeed, judging by the kind of friendly looks CanguRo receives from the lad in the video (above), turning the machine into a kind of robot buddy appears central to future development work.

The video shows CanguRo tootling along with the guy, who then hops on for a leisurely ride to nowhere in particular. Next, he tries out its autonomous mode by using the app to send it by itself to another location a short distance away. The video ends with the guy riding CanguRo in a sports hall filled with lots of bouncing basketballs. No, we’re not sure what that has to do with a mobility vehicle, either.

A growing number of companies are looking into the idea of developing small robot transporters, with Honda, for example, recently unveiling several concept designs. Among them is the awkwardly named 3E-B18, a single-seat mobility vehicle for casual use in indoor or outdoor spaces, while the 3E-C18 (it doesn’t get any better, does it) is a small-sized, wheel-based electric machine that also includes a small cargo space.

If you like the look of CanguRo and you happen to be in Los Angeles over the summer, you’ll be able to catch it in action at Japan House, an exhibition center showcasing Japanese products and culture.

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