Robot becomes human

The multi-purpose robot Altron, created by student Alexander Dubovitsky from Minsk, could be seen last year at practically all significant innovation competitions as well as the exhibitions TIBO-2015 and Ball of Robots
The multi-purpose robot Altron, created by student Alexander Dubovitsky from Minsk, could be seen last year at practically all significant innovation competitions as well as the exhibitions TIBO-2015 and Ball of Robots. The logical conclusion of all this attention was victory in the youth section of the Republican innovative projects competition and the award of a grant for commercial development. We learnt first-hand what is unique about Altron and when ordinary users might begin to explore its possibilities.

Altron currently only exists as a production sample. Outwardly it appears to be a robot-vacuum cleaner with a hand-like gripping device added on top. It can not only vacuum the floor, but also collect toys for example, and put them into a container. This is only the `tip of iceberg`. The important thing is what’s inside it. The various sensors, video cameras and computer make the unit multipurpose. It boasts a gas sensor which is able to scan buildings for the presence of dangerous gases and smoke. If anything is found, the robot will give a signal and automatically contact the emergency services. There are temperature and humidity instruments, but the main innovation is the fibre optic movement sensor and scanner developed by Alexander Dubovitsky; all this allows Altron to orientate itself, build maps of a building and work in an orderly manner using algorithms it has created itself. 

“The cost price of this sensor is just about $5, but it replaces a whole complex of similar devices which cost from $200 to $400, currently used in high quality robot-vacuum cleaners. Thus the new robot offers reduced costs and optimum performance compared to the best models on the market. Alexander describes the advantages of his innovation as being competitive in all respects.

According to his calculations, the cost price of Altron should be approximately $150. We should not forget its basic function, this ‘smart’ vacuum cleaner is equipped with a powerful motor and dust container. It can be used in both automatic mode (to pre-set a cleaning schedule), and manually using a phone or tablet. If required, the robot can be trained to water plants, feed a cat or bring one’s slippers. The machine can work for two hours on one charge before it needs to be returned to its base. Alexander is now working with other inventors to develop a vocal module to enable the vacuum cleaner to understand speech and even engage in conversation.

The winner will receive a grant for commercial production worth almost Br117mln. Certainly, this will only be a part of the amount needed to begin mass production of these intellectual robot cleaners. The company will be required to register in January and then find an industrial platform for the product. There is still a long list of tasks to complete, but Alexander Dubovitsky is hopeful that the domestic robots may appear on the market by the end of summer.

Alexander was demonstrating Altron in the BelHard company office where he and a team of innovators are developing a number of projects for the company. Alexander is now working on the creation of a new version of the robot named Nikabot. It is almost waist high in size, with hands and a whole spectrum of functions: it can help about the house, in business — to advertise or translate at conferences, be a nurse or teach children to read and write. It is 70 percent complete and Alexander plans to show a prototype to the public in a couple of months.

Reference

The Republican contest of innovative projects is held by the State Committee for Science and Technology with the assistance of the Belarusian Innovation Fund, the Ministry of Education and NAS of Belarus, to encourage the development of new ideas in our country. Cash prizes were also previously awarded to the winners, while vouchers for the financial costs of further commercialisation were given for the first time to four products, its purpose being to promote the introduction of the newest hi-tech developments in the economy of the country.

By Svetlana Antonovich
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