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Robotics Science

The Open Source Humanoid Robot and Its Many Uses 93

Posted by timothy
from the billy-connolly-in-fido dept.
ruphus13 writes with a story about the open-source centric Willow Garage project (last mentioned on Slashdot early last year), which is making progress in creating helpful humanoid robots for household use. From the article: "PR2 is the mobile hardware design for Willow Garage robots, featuring stereo and laser sensors ... Senior citizens are a big part of the target audience that Willow Garage is aiming for. "All industrialized countries are facing aging populations that require assistance and care to remain independent into old age. By 2020 close to 20 percent of the US population will be over 65," the project leaders say. "These numbers are even higher in Western European and Asian countries." Willow Garage is aiming to produce several types of assistive robots." The PR2 robots are capable of performing critical tasks like cleaning rooms and bringing beer from a refrigerator."
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The Open Source Humanoid Robot and Its Many Uses

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  • by InterruptDescriptorT (531083) on Sunday September 07, 2008 @05:13PM (#24913603) Homepage

    "The PR2 robots are capable of performing critical tasks like cleaning rooms and bringing beer from a refrigerator."

    (emphasis mine)

    Don't get me wrong, I enjoy several cold ones on a daily basis, but is it fair to qualify the ability of a robot to procure a can of lager from the fridge as a critical task?

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by mustafap (452510)

      >is it fair to qualify the ability of a robot to procure a can of lager from the fridge as a critical task?

      You obviously get out too much. Are you sure you should be reading this site?

      • Re:article WTF? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by cayenne8 (626475) on Sunday September 07, 2008 @06:13PM (#24914027) Homepage Journal
        Actually, if they ever get the robots to the point to where you can have a custom made one that looks like the hot chick of your dreams, that will fuck/suck on demand, and never bitch and actually shut up on demand...

        The human race will cease to exist.

        • by mweather (1089505)
          Well, this one can give you a Dutch Rudder.
        • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Actually, if they ever get the robots to the point to where you can have a custom made one that looks like the hot chick of your dreams, that will fuck/suck on demand, and never bitch and actually shut up on demand...

          The human race will cease to exist.

          Leela: She doesn't really love you. She can't. She's just a machine that--

          Bender: [shaking his fist] Stay away from our women! You got metal fever, boy! Metal fever!

          Fry: Well, so what if I love a robot? It's not hurting anybody.

          Hermes: My God! He never took middle school hygiene. He never saw the propaganda film.

          Farnsworth: It's just lucky I keep a copy in the VCR at all times.

          [He presses a button and a film title, I Dated A Robot!, appears on the screen. In the movie a couple sit in a cafe and stare into e

          • by mustafap (452510)

            >But when a human dates an artificial mate, there is no purpose. Only enjoyment. And that leads to ... tragedy

            Yep, that's dildos for you. Bastards.

    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      If you absolutely wanted the estate, or actually needed it ASAP, then maybe you'd buy granny one of the proven "Intoxicator" range of robots, and hope machine-motived binge drinking helps put your ancestry in a critical condition...
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      Don't get me wrong, I enjoy several cold ones on a daily basis, but is it fair to qualify the ability of a robot to procure a can of lager from the fridge as a critical task?

      The robot will have to analyze the bottle critically so it doesn't mistakenly bring me an ale.

    • Re:article WTF? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by kevintron (1024817) on Sunday September 07, 2008 @06:18PM (#24914079)

      Sending a robot into the household makes it much more difficult to predict which tasks will end up defined as "critical" by the people giving it orders. My first reaction to the bit about bringing beer was the same as yours, but it brings up some interesting issues.

      Suppose the robot is cleaning a room when its human orders it to drop everything and go fetch some beer and food. The human is too busy watching the game, or playing bridge or whatever it is humans do, and doesn't know the robot was in the middle of cleaning the toilet. Will the robot realize it needs to sanitize its manipulators before fetching food, even if the human has placed all orders including beer into the "critical" category? This might be an easy decision to program into its code, but only if the designers have considered this possibility.

      Another commenter here said the robot should let you stop taking your prescription meds if you'd rather spend the evening drinking. Your doctor might not want your robot to contribute to your unhealthy behavior. What should the robot obey: yours, or your doctor's orders? Or should it just obey you, but then quietly report your pill-skipping and beer-drinking to your insurance company?

      In many other ways a household helper robot can get complicated to design, compared to designing an industrial robot for the factory floor. This may make it a good candidate for the "many eyes" model of open source design methods.

      • by Korin43 (881732)
        I think the question of who's orders should it obey, yours or the doctors is pretty obvious. I doubt many people would want robots who 3 times a day tackle them and force feed them pills..
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          Sure, but what if the robots are supposed to watch you for terroristic behavior? Do you think you'll be able to stop them from recording your voice and reporting any suspicious commentary back to Skynet Central?

          • by kdemetter (965669)

            Sure, but what if the robots are supposed to watch you for terroristic behavior? Do you think you'll be able to stop them from recording your voice and reporting any suspicious commentary back to Skynet Central?

            I hope so , otherwise we would all be screwed:

            Using robots the perform a part of the separation of powers ( executive, a legislature, judiciary ) , could lead to a dictatorship , were however programs the robots rules .

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by anotherzeb (837807)
        Just an idea, but how about:

        1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
        2. A robot must obey orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
        3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

        so sanitizing manipulators and refusing drink would be covered by the first law as long as the robot knew that not doing it might harm a human bei
    • Re:article WTF? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by HadouKen24 (989446) on Sunday September 07, 2008 @06:31PM (#24914201)
      If it can bring beer from the refrigerator, it can bring pretty much anything else of similar shape and size.

      I have a great aunt who is currently living alone, but can only manage to do so because she has regular support from family members, and won't be able to manage for much longer. She isn't eating as much as she probably needs because of a lack of appetite. It's becoming more and more difficult for her to get up and walk to the refrigerator to get more food or a relatively calorie rich Slimfast shake.

      A robot capable of bringing her food and diet shakes from the refrigerator would make it much easier for her to ingest the calories she needs. That would help her maintain her health and her independence for substantially longer than she would be able to otherwise. So, yes. The important thing isn't the beer, but the fact that the robot can retrieve items from the refrigerator. This task is very critical for a number of people suffering from disabilities, age-related or not.
      • by mweather (1089505)
        Beer is chock full of calories. It's liquid bread. Get grandma some Old Guardian Barley Wine.
      • by cayenne8 (626475)
        "If it can bring beer from the refrigerator, it can bring pretty much anything else of similar shape and size."

        Who needs a robot for that? Isn't that what a wife/girlfriend are for?

      • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        A robot capable of bringing her food and diet shakes from the refrigerator would make it much easier for her to ingest the calories she needs. That would help her maintain her health and her independence for substantially longer than she would be able to otherwise. So, yes. The important thing isn't the beer, but the fact that the robot can retrieve items from the refrigerator. This task is very critical for a number of people suffering from disabilities, age-related or not.

        If I myself was in such situation (disability), I would prefer a personal exoskeleton to a robot. It seems so much more versatile.

      • by kabocox (199019)

        I have a great aunt who is currently living alone, but can only manage to do so because she has regular support from family members, and won't be able to manage for much longer. She isn't eating as much as she probably needs because of a lack of appetite. It's becoming more and more difficult for her to get up and walk to the refrigerator to get more food or a relatively calorie rich Slimfast shake.

        A robot capable of bringing her food and diet shakes from the refrigerator would make it much easier for her t

    • Yes.
    • by fugue (4373)
      It is if you're a beer critic.
    • by HTH NE1 (675604)

      Indeed, I can think of far more critical tasks for which a robot is suited.

      For instance, some days you just can't get rid of a bomb.

  • The PR2 robots are capable of performing critical tasks like cleaning rooms and bringing beer from a refrigerator.

    Awesome. Didn't know beer is one of a senior's "critical tasks" in order to live. Heck, if it's Starbucks Frappucinno's, I need one NOW, not in 40 years.

  • I am fully functional and programmed in multiple techniques....

  • by Iowan41 (1139959)
    Now there's a useful robot. Hope it isn't AI and up and joins the WCTU! ;-)
  • by thermian (1267986) on Sunday September 07, 2008 @05:31PM (#24913729)

    01001001 00100000 01100110 01101111 01110010 00100000 01101111 01101110 01100101 00100000 01110111 01100101 01101100 01100011 01101111 01101101 01100101 00100000 01101111 01110101 01110010 00100000 01101111 01110000 01100101 01101110 00100000 01110011 01101111 01110101 01110010 01100011 01100101 00100000 01110010 01101111 01100010 01101111 01110100 00100000 01101111 01110110 01100101 01110010 01101100 01101111 01110010 01100100 01110011

    • by blake182 (619410)
      decode_string = "01001001 00100000 01100110 01101111 01110010 00100000 01101111 01101110 01100101 00100000 01110111 01100101 01101100 01100011 01101111 01101101 01100101 00100000 01101111 01110101 01110010 00100000 01101111 01110000 01100101 01101110 00100000 01110011 01101111 01110101 01110010 01100011 01100101 00100000 01110010 01101111 01100010 01101111 01110100 00100000 01101111 01110110 01100101 01110010 01101100 01101111 01110010 01100100 01110011"
      final_string = ""

      composed_char = 0

      for the_char in deco
      • by arielCo (995647)
        perl -naF -e 'map { print pack "B8",$_ } @F'
        There, broke it for you.
      • decode_string = "01001001 00100000 01100110 01101111 01110010 00100000 01101111 01101110 01100101 00100000 01110111 01100101 01101100 01100011 01101111 01101101 01100101 00100000 01101111 01110101 01110010 00100000 01101111 01110000 01100101 01101110 00100000 01110011 01101111 01110101 01110010 01100011 01100101 00100000 01110010 01101111 01100010 01101111 01110100 00100000 01101111 01110110 01100101 01110010 01101100 01101111 01110010 01100100 01110011"

        bytes = decode_string.scan(/[01]+/).map { |bits| bits.
      • In Python... (Score:2, Insightful)

        by maxume (22995)
        decode_string = "01001001 00100000 01100110 01101111 01110010 00100000 01101111 01101110 01100101 00100000 01110111 01100101 01101100 01100011 01101111 01101101 01100101 00100000 01101111 01110101 01110010 00100000 01101111 01110000 01100101 01101110 00100000 01110011 01101111 01110101 01110010 01100011 01100101 00100000 01110010 01101111 01100010 01101111 01110100 00100000 01101111 01110110 01100101 01110010 01101100 01101111 01110010 01100100 01110011"

        print ''.join(chr(int(b, 2)) for b in decode_string.sp
      • by l00sr (266426)

        Whoa, take it easy there, Tolstoy! I think you meant...

        perl -e 'print pack "B*", $_ for @ARGV' 01001001 00100000 01100110 01101111 01110010 00100000 01101111 01101110 01100101 00100000 01110111 01100101 01101100 01100011 01101111 01101101 01100101 00100000 01101111 01110101 01110010 00100000 01101111 01110000 01100101 01101110 00100000 01110011 01101111 01110101 01110010 01100011 01100101 00100000 01110010 01101111 01100010 01101111 01110100 00100000 01101111 01110110 01100101 01110010 01101100 01101111 01

    • I was about ready to vent at someone who used that meme in this story, but yours made me smile. Thanks!

    • by Staur (1358323)
      And google just got 5000 hits on "binary to ascii".
  • by BitterOldGUy (1330491) on Sunday September 07, 2008 @05:34PM (#24913761)

    It looks like a metallic, 2-year old child, and it has sensors in its hands, eyes and elsewhere that help it navigate its surroundings.

    First of all, not that. It needs to look like a realistic bouncy 18 year old woman. It would also be nice if she/it could change too. That way I don't have to look at the same girl everyday. Change the size of the boobs, length of legs, hair color, race, etc...

    Two, not beer. As I get older it's more like 12 year old Scotch or Bourbon on the rocks. So the robot needs to put ice in the glass and pour scotch over it. Martinis would be nice two.

    Three, it needs to know the interaction of meds with alcohol and to warn me not to take my meds when I'm about to drink. Yes in that order because if I'm so old and decrepit that I need an assisted living robot, there's no fucking point in taking care of my health anyway.

  • But can it roll you a joint?

    Alcohol is good times, but at an old age I'm pretty sure marijuana becomes medicinal

  • Wake me up when they have a full-scale Tricia Helfer / Sarah Michelle Gellar bot. I assume attending hacker conferences would be kinda different then ...
    • Oh no! (Score:2, Funny)

      by Layth (1090489)
      Lucy Liu bot is stuck in an infinite loop, and fry's an idiot!

      "You're cute!"
      "No you're cute!"
      "No, you're cute!"
  • by Animats (122034) on Sunday September 07, 2008 @05:37PM (#24913783) Homepage

    Willow Garage has had a few projects. They did an autonomous model boat. They started on a driverless car, but never got very far in that direction. They showed the Stanford PR1 robot at RoboDevelopment two years ago, but their own second generation version is still at the parts-prototyping stage.

    Anybots [anybots.com] is probably further along. Take a look at their pictures. I've seen that machine in operation. Balance is automatic, but manipulation and movement are teleoperated.

    • by JuzzFunky (796384)
      I love the idea of open source hardware!! Does anyone know of other open source hardware projects that are worth looking into?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 07, 2008 @05:40PM (#24913803)

    The robot is being teleoperated in those videos.

    I'm a roboticist; no robot, at the moment, is capable of performing those tasks autonomously.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      The robot is being teleoperated in those videos.

      Certainly that's the case. I think the intention of this project is to create a platform for future research.

      By making it open-source (and hopefully affordable), it has better chances of being accepted as a standard benchmark for the next generation of embodied AI (which, as its name implies, isn't here yet). Think about it as the physics engine, not the game itself...

      Having said that, let's embark on the more interesting discussion of what are the prospects of a robot successfully roaming around our

    • http://personalrobotics.stanford.edu/ [stanford.edu] OK, so it's not autonomous, but it's cool as hell nonetheless.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by RossumsChild (941873)

      Two thoughts.

      1) Just because a video displays something beyond the perceived state of the art doesn't mean it isn't real. I know plenty of people that couldn't fathom the BigDog videos the first time they saw them.

      I've worked in the personal robotics industry as well, and I agree with you: much of that footage must be teleoperated. Some of the tasks (feeding someone, selecting a beer from the fridge) might be autonomous behaviours but the overall combination is unlikely--it would be equivalent to som

  • I think what the world really needs is a super duper depressed humanoid robot. And I think his name should be Marvin.

  • No more trips to the bathroom! No more trips to the fridge! I can now die comfortably from my bed or chair with no worries and rest assured that after I'm dead... my wife can still get her beer from the fridge thanks to a 'bot. Thanks :)

  • "Can you f*** it?"
  • C3PO?! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by greymond (539980) on Sunday September 07, 2008 @06:38PM (#24914255) Homepage Journal

    "They're not C3PO at this stage of their development..."

    Who cares about that stupid bot, give me an R2 unit that can get up stairs and I'll be super happy.

  • Take a look [flickr.com] and imagine the following delivered in an even, calm, ever so slightly lisping child's voice: "Dear, dear user, I want to help you, when you are old and frail. Do not fear, I am programmed to assist you."
  • by kesuki (321456) on Sunday September 07, 2008 @09:41PM (#24915377) Journal

    http://getrobo.typepad.com/getrobo/2008/08/interviewing-br.html [typepad.com]

    in case it gets /.ed full text below.

    "Interviewing Brian Gerkey at Willow Garage

    I normally write about robots in Japan on this blog but today I am going to write about a robot that is being developed in the U.S. This is because I had the chance to interview Brian P. Gerkey, Research Scientist at Willow Garage, for the Japanese GetRobo Blog, and I felt it important for me to report this in English too at this time of era.

    Willow Garage is a privately-funded research lab in California which is developing a hardware and software platform for Personal Robots - robots that do tasks for humans in everyday lives. The company is unique in that it has enough resources to "indefinitely" maintain a lab of 60 researchers without making any profit. The goal of the company is to make a positive and big impact in the robotics community by fully utilizing the open source development process.

    The hardware platform is called PR2 and the software team at Willow Garage is developing the Robot Operating System (ROS) for PR2, a modular software system designed to facilitate code reuse throughout the robotics community. Brian is on the team developing ROS (led by Morgan Quigley at Stanford University) and is also the lead in developing all the applications that sit on top of ROS. Brian is well-known as the founder of The Player Project which he will explain about during the interview.

    The following is an edited version of the interview with Brian (photographed below).

    Gerkey_2 GetRobo: How did you get to join Willow Garage?

    Brian: I was at SRI doing various kinds of robotics research. I had been there for 2 and a half years and was perfectly happy and wasn't particularly looking for another opportunity. But Eric Berger at Willow Garage whom I knew from Stanford contacted me and asked whether I was interested in joining. I was a bit wary at first since it is an unusual place. And I took a little bit of convincing to be sure.

    GetRobo: What were you wary about?

    Brian: One aspect of it is that I wanted to understand what the motivations were in particular of Scott and Steve, meaning that they're running the organization so I wanted to understand what their motivations were in what they were doing. Because I'm used to places like universities where the motivation is to do science, and to do research you have to go out and get contracts to support it. Then there are places like SRI where you do science but the goal there is to get clients. And in a fully industrial setting the goal is to get clients by selling products or services. Willow Garage doesn't fit into any of those categories, so I just wanted to understand why it was that they were doing what they were doing. And eventually they came to convince me that the idea is to take this long runway approach in developing technologies by putting significant resources into a focused topic in a way that allows you to spend years working on it to get to a point where business opportunities present themselves. So we are neither living off day-to-day contract income as like a place like SRI would nor are we trying desperately to get a marketable product out the door in order to satisfy our venture capital investors like a normal startup would operate.

    GetRobo: What is your role at Willow Garage?

    Brian: My role is software lead for the PR2. Morgan at Stanford is the lead on ROS which is the underlying infrastructure that we are building on, and I'm the lead here in developing all the applications that sit on the top of ROS. And that involves everything from designing the architecture of the software that we are building to the determination of the development policy since we have a lot of people writing the software. We have things like testing infrastructure and coding guidelines - not all of it are my favorite things to do, but important things for a professional softw

    • by Animats (122034)

      The company is unique in that it has enough resources to "indefinitely" maintain a lab of 60 researchers without making any profit.

      Now that's promising. The big lesson of the DARPA Grand Challenge is that mobile robotics takes about 10x the resources that typical academic groups had previously been applying to the problem, and with sufficient resources, the problems start to yield. Previous automatic driving efforts had been a professor and a few grad students. Once the efforts were scaled up to NASC

  • Humanoid + robot = android.

    (Or to be precise, man shaped)

  • Am I really the only person for whom the first thought was "Sexbot?"
  • Every article I read these days seems like a joke.

    Aren't old people supposed to be terrified of robots? Now the robots are bringing them beer!

    Don't trust the pusher robot!

    http://lazur.com/the-terrible-secret-of-space [lazur.com]

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