June 29, 2016

'"We’re trying to get robots to be able to work in a home environment," said Carnegie Mellon University Ph.D. student Jennifer King.'

WESA: Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University's Personal Robotics Lab have spent years working on ways to make robots execute subtle, human-like movements in the hopes of helping around the house. By Melinda Roeder

'With cameras for eyes, two thick arms and the occasional bowtie, Herb – an acronym for home exploring robot butler – only recently learned to move a cup across a table. While scanning a room, Herb creates a high-resolution, three-dimensional map complete with depth perception, spacial reasoning and physical properties like weight and texture, according to Lab Director Sidd Srinvasa.

'“He needs a map that not only looks good, but also works effectively for him,” Srinvasa said.

'Researchers have also been teaching Herb how to handle clutter. King said objects on a floor or shelf can be confusing to a robot on a mission. Think of trying to reach a carton from the back of the fridge, she said. A homeowner might take some items out first, but others, he or she may just shove aside. That reasoning does not come easily to a robot.

'“So we’re trying to get Herb to think about that as well,” King said. “Can he use his whole arm to move clutter out of the way in order to reach his goal rather than be afraid of it?”'

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