Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Getting a Grasp on the World

A robot helper to follow you around and clean up after you may not be too far off.

Researchers at Stanford University are teaching a robot how to reach for and pick up objects that it has never seen before.
The STAIR project, for Stanford Artificial Intelligence Robot, is an effort to get robots to perform useful household tasks and being able to pick up objects is just one part of the puzzle.

The overall project has four tasks as objectives for a helper robot:
Fetching a book or a person from an office, in response to a verbal request.
Cleaning up after a party, including picking up and throwing away trash, and placing dirty dishes in the dishwasher.
Using tools (screwdriver, hammer, pliers, etc.) to assemble an IKEA bookshelf kit.
Showing guests around an active area (in which things change daily), answering questions and keeping track of the entire group.

While picking up objects may seem like a small step, the team is quite optimistic about the future of their intelligent robots. Dr.Andrew Ng working on the project says that, "Within a decade we hope to develop the technology that will make it useful to put a robot in every home and office."

So far they have developed an algorithm for a one-armed robot to correctly pick up things around the lab. The education of the robot started with identifying pick-up points on drawings of objects then graduated on to looking at real things. The robot uses a simple camera and figures out where to grab the object by 'triangulating' between two views of the object and comparing it to past experiences rather than trying to build up a complete 3D model and calculating the best handle.

Robot learns to grasp everyday chores


Blogger Ian Parker said...

Does IKEA provide CAD specifications? It is a lot easy to recognise objects where a CAD sepecification is provided. Also CAD is provided for most assemblies. Also if your house/office is a world (ie. specified in CAD) you are a lot better off.

For the fourth capability, we are confrontd with the general linguistic problem. If we have "some" understanding of Natural Language. I feel that capability 4 is dependent on what I call "bueno espagnol", the ability to translate well. See my blog

4:09 AM, November 10, 2006  

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