Development of an intelligent Container Prototype
for a Logistical Support Robot System in Living Space
Rui FUKUI, Masayuki SHODAI, Taketoshi MORI, Tomomasa SATO.
Graduate School of Information Science and Technology, The University of Tokyo
This paper reports development of an intelligent container,
a unit of the logistical support robot system in living space.
The container not only supports human to fix and arrange
their commodities, but also supports robots to achieve their
logistical tasks. In other words, the intelligent container is a
mediator between human’s request and robots’ capabilities.
The container has four major roles in our logistical support
system. (1) Taking several commodities in and recognizing
and acquiring contents’ information. (2) Supporting human
and robots to transfer the container. (3) Receiving users’
command as a simple user-interface. (4) Communicating to
a host computer and informs the contents of the container
and users’ command. To realize those roles, the container
is equipped with a grasping navigation mechanism for robot
handling, RFID reader for the recognition of contents, and
LCD device to display supporting information to human and
robot. Finally, a primary function is evaluated in experiment
to confirm that an acceleration sensor enables the container
to detect being transferred by human.
In the future, the intelligent container will play a role of
contact point for human and robots in our target system, that
enables human-robot symbiotic life.
Facing problems with aging population combined with
diminishing number of children, people become to expect
robots to support their daily life. To this end, Intelligent
Cooperative Laboratory at the Univ. of Tokyo are developing
“a logistical support robot system in living space” as Fig.1
shows. The system is an environmental robot (i.e. intelligent
environment) that daily supports our access to commodities.
As commodities, we suppose books, magazines, CDs, preser-
vative foods, grocery stock and so on. The system consists
of four sub-systems, (1)intelligent containers for human to
place commodities, (2)a ceiling mobile robot to transfer
the containers, (3)shelf type (or upper ceiling) rack system
and (4)a stacker crane robot to take out and put in containers
from the rack system.
There are two kinds of advantages in the system. The
first ones are advantages in robotic (physical) support and
the other ones are advantages in informative support. In
robotic or physical support, upper ceiling rack system and
ceiling mobile robot achieve space saving, i.e. people cannot
use the upper ceiling space efficiently until now, but these
systems enable people to use it with no special care. In
addition, robots need to deal with only the containers (not
(3b) Shelf type
(3a) Upper ceiling
Fig. 1. Conceptual sketch of the logistical support robot system
commodities themselves). Thus the mission can be easier
and more practical for robot than dealing with complex
While in informative support, if the intelligent container
can acquire a log of commodities’ use, we can obtain never
lost memories of commodities’ arrangement, i.e. the system
will remind you, when and where you fixed a thing. Further-
more, high level fixing (arrangement) of daily commodities
must be possible. By data-mining the log, the system can
sort things whether frequently used ones or not. The system
may arrange the frequently used tools at shelf type rack, and
rare used objects at upper ceiling rack.
To realize such advantages, the intelligent container plays
a significant role of contact point for human and robots in
the system, i.e. the container not only supports robots to
complete tasks, but also supports humans to enrich their life.
The framework of this paper is as follows; Firstly, in sec-
tion II, related researches are listed. Secondly, in section III,
required functions of the intelligent container are discussed.
Thirdly, in section IV, implementations of required functions
are explained. Finally, section VI is the conclusion.
II. RELATED RESEARCHES
From 1990’s to now, there were several works that tried
to make a robot system for office/home logistics. Prassler
et al. and Cosma et al. constructed a mobile robot
system for office or indoor logistics. In the paper, Prassler
concluded that “No single method suffices for solving any of
these (variety of the conditions and objectives) problems”.
this trial, antenna No. 3 is too large to make 3 coils, so
has only 2 coils. Table I shows the result of communication
test. The result indicates that a large antenna doesn’t always
make the communication distance long. More detailed design
of antenna size and layout is our future task.
RESULT OF VARIOUS ANTENNA COMMUNICATION TEST
11011033 140140 909022
11011022 300300 20020033
110 11033 95 9595 9511
Height HeightWidth WidthAntenna AntennaCommunication No. of
Unit : mm*1 : measured at center of coil.
B. Evaluation test of carry sensing function
This test evaluates the capability of sensing to be carried
by human. In this test, three subjects (20’s males) lift up the
container from a desk and place it on the desk again. This
procedure is repeated four times per a subject, and vibration
of the container is measured by an acceleration sensor on
Fig.24 shows an example data of vertical acceleration
when human lifts up and place a container. In general, much
acceleration is detected at placing phase than picking phase.
In the placing phase, the minimum acceleration value is
0.3[G] by subject A, 0.2[G] by subject B, 0.7[G] by subject
C respectively. When a container is placed on a desk in a
living room for 1 hour, the maximum acceleration value was
0.06[G]. So the acceleration value generated by transferring
can be distinguished. From this result, we confirmed that
monitoring the acceleration of the container enables us to
detect the container being transferred by human.
9090 NO.18NO.18100100 NO.17 NO.17
NO.15NO.15 9090 NO.14NO.14
NO.3 NO.3110 110 NO.2NO.2
NO.6 NO.690 90NO.5NO.5
Maximum Communication Length [mm]
NO.8NO.850 50 NO.7NO.7
NO.3 NO.3 110110NO.2NO.2
NO.6NO.6 9090 NO.5NO.5
(1) Four antennas are available.
(2) Only right-down antenna is available.
Fig. 22.The maximum communication distance at each measured point
Fig. 23.Comparison of 3 different type RFID antennas
Human take up
An example data of vertical acceleration when human transfers a
Facing problems with aging population combined with
diminishing number of children, we aimed to realize a robot
system that can support human actually. As a target, we
focused on a logistical support robot system, that casually
supports human to access and arrange commodities in living
space. This paper reports development of an intelligent
container, a unit of the logistical support robot system. The
intelligent container will play a role of contact point for
human and robots in the robot system. In the evaluation
test of primary functions, we confirmed that monitoring
acceleration is effective to detect container to be transferred
by human, and detailed antenna design is essential to realize
more accurate object tag recognition function.
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