As Japan’s birth rate declines and its population ages, a shortage of delivery workers looms while the need for deliveries has increased as more people find it difficult to shop at physical stores. Against this backdrop, autonomous delivery robots are being looked at as a solution.
Also, with the Japanese government’s establishment of a program in 2020 for performing demonstrations with specified automated delivery robots on public roads, various tests have been carried out indoors and outdoors with a view to integrating delivery robots into society.
Delivery robots rely on the creation of accurate maps
As part of the Government of Japan Digital Agency’s “Research on Creating Digital Twins'' initiative commissioned in 2022, the three companies announced that in February 2023 they conducted a demonstration on data sharing between delivery robots and augmented reality (AR) navigation platforms using Spatial IDs. The test took place in February 2023 at Tokyo Portcity Takeshiba, where SoftBank headquarters is located.
What are Spatial IDs?
Spatial IDs are a standard that can uniquely identify a location, even if the base of the spatial information differs, by dividing 3D spaces into box-like shapes. Linking static and dynamic information to Spatial IDs makes it possible to easily integrate or search for spatial information and process data at high speeds, using Spatial IDs as the key. Currently, preparations for standardization are in progress under the guidance of Japan’s Digital Agency and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI).
The autonomous feature of robots and the operation of AR navigation apps rely on location information and building information to create maps and set up routes. However, the coordinates that act as the standard and base for maps vary across business operators, so even if another operator implements an autonomous delivery robot operation in the same area, it is still necessary to create maps and register location information from scratch. The effort and cost of doing so are impeding the implementation of delivery robots.
Addressing this issue, the three companies successfully shared data across their respective systems, including the SoftBank-developed autonomous delivery robot “Cuboid” and BeBridge’s augmented reality (AR) navigation app. This was done by linking spatial data–such as the robot’s delivery destination and information on the interior of the building–and map information to Spatial IDs. Dynamic Map Platform provided the “Spatial information infrastructure.”
Utilizing data sets in this way optimized map creation and location information registration. For SoftBank, this data sharing method is expected to reduce the work required to create maps for autonomous delivery robots by 80%.
The three companies plan to extend the use of Spatial IDs to various systems, including autonomous delivery robots, based on the knowledge they gained from this demonstration.
(Posted on May 22, 2023)
by SoftBank News Editors