(Credit: MIT)

 

Teaching household robots to manipulate objects more efficiently

New algorithms could help household robots work around their physical shortcomings

February 26, 2013

At this year’s IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, students in the Learning and Intelligent Systems Group at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory will present a pair of papers showing how household robots could use a little lateral thinking to compensate for their physical shortcomings.

Many commercial robotic arms perform what roboticists call “pick and place” tasks: The arm picks up an object in one location and places it in another.

Usually, the objects — say, automobile components along an assembly line — are positioned so that the arm can easily grasp them; the appendage that does the grasping may even be tailored to the objects’ shape.

General-purpose household robots, however, would have to be able to manipulate objects of any shape, left in any location. And today, commercially available robots don’t have anything like the dexterity of the human hand.

One of the papers concentrates on picking, the other on placing. Jennifer Barry, a PhD student, describes an algorithm that enables a robot to push an object across a table so that part of it hangs off the edge, where it can be grasped. Annie Holladay, an MIT senior majoring in electrical engineering and computer science, shows how a two-armed robot can use one of its graspers to steady an object set in place by the other.

Read more: Teaching household robots to manipulate objects more efficiently | KurzweilAI.

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