If you’ve ever worked in an office, you know the routine: Print a document from your computer, get up from your chair, walk over to the printer, hope the printer doesn’t jam, exchange awkward nods with a co-worker (with whom you’ve never actually spoken) who’s waiting for their print job to finish, pick up your papers and walk back to your desk – repeat as necessary. Fuji Xerox has created a robotic printer that would cut that printing routine down to just two steps: print and wait.
The prototype robot printer (which, unfortunately, is nameless) has been deployed in a building in Tokyo for the past two months for testing. Here’s how it works: Each desk in the lounge where the robot printer resides has a smart card with a unique URL on it. A user can visit that page, drag and drop a document into the browser, press “Print,” and wait for the robot printer to arrive.
The mobile printer is equipped with LIDAR sensors, which enables it to navigate the room and find the desk associated with the unique URL. Once it finds the right desk, the user has to hold up the smart card to the robot in order for the print job to commence, which should mollify privacy concerns to an extent. After the document is printed, the user can tap a button on the tablet mounted atop the robot printer, which sends it back to its home to await its next printing request.
While the robot printer is certainly a cute amalgamation of existing technology (Roomba meets smart printer), its usefulness in most real-world locations appears limited at best. “One might even argue that it seems more like technology for technology’s sake,” says Bryan Ma, an analyst with IDC.
If someone can create a version of this prototype equipped with a 3D printer, maybe it can print out the medals awarded to its robot athlete counterparts at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.