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Robotics Technology

Engineers Use Laser Pointers To Guide Household Robots 28

Posted by Soulskill
from the helping-the-sick-and-the-lazy dept.
The New York Times is running a story about a recently developed technique for directing the actions of household robots. Engineers from the Georgia Institute of Technology have created a robot that will fetch items for you by simply shining a laser on the desired object. Quoting: "'The pointer gives the robot just enough context and guidance to solve the really hard problem of figuring out which object among many lying around in a room to pick up,' Professor Sukhatme said. 'People in artificial intelligence have been working on this problem for a long time.' Just pointing to an object with natural gestures usually isn't enough to direct a robot, and even when robots navigate to the right spot, it's hard for them to grasp a particular object unless, for instance, they have a three-dimensional computer model of it, Professor Kemp said. Guided by the laser pointer, though, El-E can fetch objects as varied as towels, wallets or coffee mugs with no need for elaborate computer modeling."
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Engineers Use Laser Pointers To Guide Household Robots

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  • Re:What's the point? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by zappepcs (820751) on Sunday March 16, 2008 @12:23PM (#22766138) Journal
    What you say is indeed true, but they have found a way to target individual objects without the requirement of complex vision systems. This might be a step forward in several areas of robotics. If you have a robot that is traveling back and forth in a hospital carrying supplies to various points, having to identify each parcel or tray with tags is complex. It would be much easier to do this in some universal way, and laser tag might be that way.

    In general, it is not much good for a roomba unless you are using it to tell the roomba 'this way stairs lie' or something like that. In either case, the process of identification for a robot may have been simplified in this case. Remember that robotics presents a LOT of problems that we solve on a daily basis and take for granted as easy when in fact they are very difficult. Just doing the holy grail of robotics (get a beer from the fridge) is far more difficult than you might believe. This is perhaps one way to do so, even though it lacks some elegance at the moment.

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