In its quest to promote the use of innovative technology in order to benefit people in their daily lives, the Smart Government Innovation Lab co-operated with a local startup to develop a guiding robot that escorts those in need.
The mobile application-operated guiding robot, with its automatic navigation and obstacle avoidance functions, is the size of a vacuum cleaner. The light detection and ranging device installed at the bottom allows it to calculate the most efficient route and avoid obstacles en route.
The lab first consulted the Hong Kong Blind Union to learn more about the needs of visually impaired people, thus some of the features are specially designed, including the robot’s height, speed and handrail.
There are even small fans installed on the sides of the handrail to help the visually impaired users know where to position themselves when operating the robot.
Hong Kong Blind Union Executive Committee Member Chong Chan-yau said he expects the robot to help the visually impaired with overcoming the difficulties they face when visiting indoor places and encourage them to explore even more indoor locations.
When comparing the robot with guide dogs, Mr Chong said robots are more convenient as they do not need pairing and can serve anyone instantly.
“However, this guiding robot is not a replacement for guide dogs which are also close partners of their owners,” he added.
Mr Chong stressed that he hopes the robot can support the Government’s promotion of smart city development and will be widely used in most indoor areas soon.
Led by the Smart Government Innovation Lab, this guiding robot project was inspired by the disinfection robots used in malls and public areas during the COVID-19 pandemic. Office of the Government Chief Information Officer Senior Systems Manager Elke Mak emphasised that the lab wishes to explore how robotics technologies can help citizens, including people in need, to embrace smart living.
“It echoes our service mission, which is through the wider adoption of innovation and technology (I&T) to enhance the efficiency and quality of public services, thus raising citizens’ sense of fulfilment.”
The first stage of proof-of-concept testing of the guiding robot has largely been completed. It will be brought to a shopping mall for on-site testing before its official launch.
The Smart Government Innovation Lab of the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer was established in April 2019 with the goal of promoting the use of innovative technology in government departments to improve the quality of public services.
Apart from asking different such departments about their needs when it comes to providing public services, the lab also invites the I&T industry to submit innovative proposals.
Upon receipt of such proposals, the lab will assist government departments to conduct proof-of-concept and technology testing, thus helping them better understand the advantages and limitations of these solutions. This will also help the departments develop more effective procurement strategies in order to adopt relevant innovative technologies for public service improvement.