A Step Forward in Robotics

robot and human

I was upset this morning when I woke up, only to realize that I didn’t have my breakfast sitting next to my bed. When I was younger I was sure that by the year 2015 I would have robots running errands for me and cleaning up my room- not to mention fixing me up some tasty meals. Alas, in my 24th year of age I am still waiting for mechanical intelligence to bring me my well-deserved cheddar omelette and hash brown breakfast.

We can all think of ways that we would utilize a robot servant/helper. Perhaps some of us aren’t fond of cleaning and tidying up our apartments. Others may wish to have their laundry done on a regular schedule, never having to worry about not having a particular article of clothing being dirty and unsuitable for the night out.

In any case, it seems that every generation grows up hearing messages of humanities liberation from the mundane and less desirable tasks of our daily living. Robotic intelligence is overdue in managing these tasks and freeing us to enjoy the good things in life (like going out on the weekend and knowing that your trusty robot is going to have your entire apartment looking like new upon your return).

Well, we aren’t quite there yet but thanks to research going on at computer science departments around the globe we are getting closer. A development at Brown University is of particular interest, as it bridges the gap between user-control and so called smart-devices or devices falling under the umbrella of IoT (internet of things).

In Brown’s CIT building, associate professor of computer science Chad Jenkins has been working with students to develop assistive robotic technologies with people with disabilities. Much of the research has centered around controlling devices through a simple web interface- remotely from anywhere. Thus far the system has been used to control off-the-shelf quadricopter drones, appliances, and the PR2, which is robot designed for all of those household tasks that many of us loathe.

Artificial Intelligence hasn’t quite evolved into the sophistication necessary to have a fully autonomous piece of equipment clean your home. Roomba is handy, but it doesn’t do curtains nor can it clean your dishes.

Besides cleaning your floors and looking like a CD player, this Roomba is good for little else

PR2’s systems are sophisticated enough where they are able to do such things as loading a dishwasher, cleaning the kitchen, and perhaps carry out the tasks necessary to do your laundry. Excitingly, the control mechanisms developed at Brown may allow people to remotely start the robot on specific tasks, such as putting it into laundry mode, or cleaning mode. If the robot get’s stuck, a person could simply use their web-interface to guide the robot through the task; a process which the robot could potentially learn depending on software advancement in learning algorithms.

First Stop, Laundry. Next Stop, Serving Science Guy Eggs Benedict (or pancakes).




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Click to learn more about Brown’s Robotics Research

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