Wednesday, October 5, 2011

ROBOT, get me a sandwich!

Ask For a Sandwich and This Robot Will Go to Subway For You
"Longtime readers know that I’m a fan of Willow Garage’s PR2 robot, which is being used all over the world for robotics research. It’s also been used in student projects to perform tasks that seem relatively simple for humans, but are actually rather hard for robots, including baking cookies, solving Rubik’s cubes, and doing the laundry.

Now here’s an even more interesting piece of programming. A team of researchers from both University of Tokyo and Technische Universität München have joined forces to develop what they’re calling “semantic search” for use with the PR2. Evan Ackerman explains:

“Semantic search” is simply the ability to make inferences about an object based on what is known about similar objects and the environment. It sounds complicated, but it’s really just a computerized version of what we humans think of as “common sense.” For example, if someone asks you to bring them a cup without telling you exactly where the cup is, you’re probably clever enough to infer that cups can be found in drawers or cabinets or dishwashers, and that drawers and cabinets and dishwashers are all usually located in a kitchen, so you can go to the kitchen, poke around for a little bit, and find a cup. Semantic search allows robots to do the same sort of thing.

Now that’s a pretty innovative piece of programming. What’s more interesting is that it will also learn. So if you store something in a room not normally associated with the object – say, your phone chargers in the hall closet – it will learn to associate phone chargers and the hall closet.

You can see a demo of the PR2 with semantic search below. Here, the robot is given a simple command – to get a sandwich. It first checks the kitchen, fails to find a sandwich, and then goes somewhere else where sandwiches are found – the local Subway. It even knows what floor to take the elevator to. Check it out..."
Read the entire article at its source:

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