Saturday, December 15, 2007

Thumb Wrestle, Anyone?

(from Wired 'UMan uses trial and error to figure out how to manipulate items it has never seen before. Photo: Glenn Matsumura)
"Getting a Grip: Building the Ultimate Robotic Hand"
"A 6-foot-tall, one-armed robot named Stair 1.0 balances on a modified Segway platform in the doorway of a Stanford University conference room. It has an arm, cameras and laser scanners for eyes, and a tangle of electrical intestines stuffed into its base. It's not pretty, but that's not the point. From his seat at a polished table, roboticist Morgan Quigley sends the bot on a mission. "Stair, please fetch the stapler from the lab."

Nothing happens. Quigley asks again. Nothing. After the third attempt, Stair responds in an inflectionless voice: "I will go fetch the stapler for you."

Using its laser scanners to identify potential obstacles, Stair 1.0 rolls out of the room and into the lab's central workspace, a rectangular area bordered by desks. On one side is a kind of robotic graveyard, a jumble of decades-old industrial arms. A poster of the NS-5 humanoid from the movie I, Robot seems to taunt the researchers from its spot on the wall: Try building me, punks. Quigley and computer scientist Andrew Ng, who directs the Stanford AI Robot (Stair) project, walk behind their robot, watching.

Stair 1.0 searches the rows of workstations, then locates the stapler. The robot moves forward and stops. If it had lungs, it might take a deep breath, because this is the hard part...."
Read the full article @ its source:

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