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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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  • ... to figure out how to do what we do with dogs and cats on a daily basis ...

    Get the Aibo!

    WARNING: Do not try with airplanes, helicopters, or police cars.

    • by dattaway (3088)
      ... to figure out how to do what we do with dogs and cats on a daily basis ...

      They will justify the millions of dollars they spent for the patent too.
    • It's hard to replicate thousands of years of evolution, unfortunately.
    • by marcop (205587)
      Actually, entertaining your cat with a laser pointer is patented (no joke) so they had to find something else to play with.
    • by tlhIngan (30335)

      ... to figure out how to do what we do with dogs and cats on a daily basis .../blockquote>

      Hrm... wouldn't this just be a consumer version of laser targeting systems that's been used by the military for aiming missiles at buildings and stuff?

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

    by CRCulver (715279) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Sunday March 16, 2008 @12:48PM (#22765908) Homepage
    If you have to guide the robot around, it no longer saves you much effort. Do you think anyone would buy a Roomba if it required constant intervention? Sure, you can still sit on your ass and direct it with a laser pointer without actually moving or exercising, but you would no longer be able to concentrate on other things.
    • Well, I for one welcome our new laser-guided missil^W^H robots.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by zappepcs (820751)
      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 usi
    • by sholden (12227)
      It's a different problem/solution. Vacuuming a room is something that can be done petty much independently, it's a problem of navigating around obstacles and so on. Telling the robot to pick up object X over there has the additional step of communicating which of the objects X is and then the robot can do the navigation steps.

      This is hard enough with people "could you grab the remote for me? No not that one, the one to the left. No the other left. No the big one with the green button at the top. No. No. Yes
  • by MsGeek (162936) on Sunday March 16, 2008 @01:05PM (#22765998) Homepage Journal
    One thing that people aren't realizing is that some people simply cannot "fetch" things for themselves. I'm talking, of course, of paraplegic and quadriplegic individuals. People have trained monkeys [monkeyhelpers.org] for this purpose, but having a pet monkey is stressful even for the able bodied [nationalgeographic.com]. So a bot that can do this would be a blessing. A quadriplegic could have the laser pointer on a headband and point with it using their head.
    • by menkhaura (103150)
      From the National Geographic article you linked to:

      No federal laws regulate private ownership, and only nine states ban individuals from owning nonhuman primates.


      So, one cannot own nonhuman primates... Human primates are okay to own, though?

      Sorry, coldn't resist trying to be funny.
      • by belmolis (702863)

        So, one cannot own nonhuman primates... Human primates are okay to own, though?

        Only in certain Muslim countries: Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Mauritania.

    • Quadriplegics with lasers on their heads?

      I dunno, I think sharks are cooler.
  • Doesn't this robot look like HELPeR, the robot from The Venture Brothers? :-)
  • So they've implemented semi-active laser [defense-update.com] guidance. Not exactly revolutionary, we've been doing it in missiles for years ...
    • So they've implemented semi-active laser guidance. Not exactly revolutionary, we've been doing it in missiles for years ...

      Yes, well, there's a difference between "pick something up" and "blow the fuck out of it." Still, sometimes a little cross-fertilization between disciplines comes up with some useful results.
  • ^_^ (Score:2, Funny)

    by theaceoffire (1053556)
    I can do the same thing with cats.
  • How realistic have their vaginas become? Get to the point, guys!
  • Makes sense. Keep it simple...

    Step by step we are getting closer to the ROBOTIC WAGELESS ECONOMY !!!

    http://roboeco.com/ [roboeco.com]

Almost anything derogatory you could say about today's software design would be accurate. -- K.E. Iverson

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