A Utah State University Professor and his graduate students are now doing a study on a 'a seeing eye' dog robot for blind shoppers. The thinking is that it's inconvenient for the blind have to wait for grocery store employees to help them shop. Instead, a robot could quickly lead them to the items they want. A robot shopping guide would help the blind be more independent and allow them to not have to swallow their pride by begging employees for help. The RG robot (for Robotic Guide) study involves a robot made out of PCV pipe and built like a shopping cart on top of a MobileRobots robot platform, a brail store directory, a keypad, and a barcode reader. The blind person selects the item they want by looking it up on the brail store directory and entering that item into the numeric keypad. The robot leads them via RFID navigation and obstacle avoidance to the shelf location (avoiding obstacles and other shoppers in its path). The robot then stops and announces audibly that the item they want is on the shelf to the left or right. The blind person then has to find and pick up the item and scan it with the barcode reader to make sure it's the item they want. The robot speaks audibly to tell them which item has been scanned. There's still a lot of problems to work out, but this seems like it will be a great help to the blind! You can see the Utah State Article and Picture of the robot here. You can also watch videos of the RG robot in action. The work is funded by a $500,000 grant from the National Science Foundation and two grants from Utah State. We've reported on this robot once and again before.