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This Robotic Black Box Will Make Your Life Warmer

Hagent sucks up wasted heat, and then follows you around to keep you warm

2 min read
This Robotic Black Box Will Make Your Life Warmer

This robot may not look like much. In fact, we're absolutely sure it doesn't look like much. But if you give it a chance, it'll be your new best friend on those cold and lonely winter nights as it stores up heat and re-emits it to keep you nice and toasty.

Under that featureless cubizoid exterior, Hagent, as the robot is called, has some wheels, some sensors, and a big pile of phase-change material. Phase-change material (or PCM for short) is something that stores or releases energy when it changes from a solid to a liquid (or any other combination of phases) or vice versa. So for example, let's say you've got a cup of coffee that's really really hot. You could put some kind of PCM into it, and the PCM would melt, absorbing the excess heat and making your coffee drinkable. Then, as the coffee cooled down, the PCM would re-solidify, releasing all that stored heat keeping your coffee warm for much longer. Sounds like a great idea, right? Right!

Hagent takes that heat storage concept and mobilizes it for the purposes of using energy more efficiently and keeping you cozy when it's cold out. The robot can sense heat (like an oven, a fire, or anything else), and when it does, it drives over and hangs out, letting it's pile o' PCM suck down as much energy as possible. Then, it'll follow you around, acting like a little space heater as its PCM re-solidifies, up until the PCM has emitted all of its stored up heat. It's cute, and it's mostly free, since all Hagent does is take heat that you've already produced and shift it around a little bit.

Created by Andreas Meinhardt and Daniel Abendroth from Germany, Hagent is still at a prototype phase. At the moment, the robot appears to be powered by batteries, but if there was some way of using, say, a Stirling engine to charge it up, you'd have yourself a heat-powered, heat-seeking, heat-storing heater robot. Yes, that would be totally hot.

Watch the prototype in action in the video below.

[ Hagent ] via [ Ubergizmo ]

The Conversation (0)

How Robots Can Help Us Act and Feel Younger

Toyota’s Gill Pratt on enhancing independence in old age

10 min read
An illustration of a woman making a salad with robotic arms around her holding vegetables and other salad ingredients.
Dan Page

By 2050, the global population aged 65 or more will be nearly double what it is today. The number of people over the age of 80 will triple, approaching half a billion. Supporting an aging population is a worldwide concern, but this demographic shift is especially pronounced in Japan, where more than a third of Japanese will be 65 or older by midcentury.

Toyota Research Institute (TRI), which was established by Toyota Motor Corp. in 2015 to explore autonomous cars, robotics, and “human amplification technologies,” has also been focusing a significant portion of its research on ways to help older people maintain their health, happiness, and independence as long as possible. While an important goal in itself, improving self-sufficiency for the elderly also reduces the amount of support they need from society more broadly. And without technological help, sustaining this population in an effective and dignified manner will grow increasingly difficult—first in Japan, but globally soon after.

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