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Robot With Knives Used In Robotics Injury Study 132

Posted by timothy
from the just-crazy-enough-to-wound dept.
An anonymous reader writes "IEEE Spectrum reports that German researchers, seeking to find out what would happen if a robot handling a sharp tool accidentally struck a human, set out to perform a series of cutting, stabbing, and puncturing tests. They used a robotic manipulator arm, fitted with various sharp tools (kitchen knife, scalpel, screwdriver) and performed striking tests at a block of silicone, a pig leg, and at one point, even the arm of a human volunteer. Volunteer, really?! The story includes video of the tests."
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Robot With Knives Used In Robotics Injury Study

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  • Roberto! (Score:5, Funny)

    by WrongSizeGlass (838941) on Thursday May 06, 2010 @07:08PM (#32119098)
    It sounds like Roberto [wikipedia.org] from Futurama! I'm happy to see he finally found another job.
    • by jgreco (1542031)

      Yeah, I thought of that too. Do we really want to start arming the robots? ;-)

      • I certainly hope this isn't the robot Japan wants to send to the moon [slashdot.org]. If they do, the Google Lunar Base [google.com] may need to advertise for an additional doctor.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by jgreco (1542031)

          Not having watched Caprica, I could just imagine that it goes something like this:

          Humans arm robots
          Robots^WCylons take over moon
          Cylons create robotic civilization
          Cylons wage war against humans
          Cylons pursue Galactica and vow to wipe out the remaining humans

          Arming robots, just don't do it. :-)

          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by davester666 (731373)

            > find out what would happen if a robot handling a sharp tool accidentally struck a human, set out to perform a series of cutting, stabbing, and puncturing tests

            Um, why would anybody need to test this?

            A robot handling a knife, making a cutting, stabbing or puncturing motion, with a human in the path of the knife, will necessarily be cut, stabbed and/or punctured. What happens to the human is directly related to the sharpness of the knife, the angle between the knife and the human, the shape of the knife

            • by Dthief (1700318)
              RTFA.....they are testing a collision detection system to see if potential injuries can be prevented
              • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

                by Azuaron (1480137)
                Except that's stupid, because a robot handling a knife will be handling a knife because it will be, duh, cutting stuff. They use force pressure measurements on the robot to determine if there is resistance, and, if there is, the robot stops cutting. The obvious problem with this is the robot will be encountering resistance if it's cutting stuff it should be cutting.

                A useful "don't cut humans" test would be something that distinguishes a human from, say, the side of pork I WANT my robot to cut up.

                Serio
                • by tool462 (677306)

                  A useful "don't cut humans" test would be something that distinguishes a human from, say, the side of pork I WANT my robot to cut up.

                  Exactly. There are power tools that have this feature. They will cut wood, but will stop the blade if it detects cutting flesh.

                  • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                    by sharkman67 (548107)
                    Take a look at Saw Stop. A table saw that cuts wood and not a hot dog. http://www.sawstop.com/ [sawstop.com]
                    • Re:Roberto! (Score:4, Insightful)

                      by GNUALMAFUERTE (697061) <almafuerte@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Thursday May 06, 2010 @09:00PM (#32120486)

                      Actually, it will cut a hot dog. But it won't cut the hot dog if it's grounded. The system is pretty simple, there is a current applied to the blade, if it discharges somewhere, it'll stop. You can't use it to cut very wet wood, or other material with good conductivity.

                      Regarding the people saying that the collision detection shown in the article is useless because it can't differentiate between a human and a pig, here is what I think:

                      You can have a robot that has a certain mobility, and a designed space where it can punch/cut/puncture/etc. The robot turns on collision detection when it's out of the designated space. So, you can have a robot that can move from place to place freely with this safety feature on,and still be able to do it's job. If you have a robot that will be cutting fix in a given table, then moving the slices somewhere else, it can travel that path with the safety features on, if it happens to encounter a human (or cables, or anything else), it i will stop, but when the blade is down on the table (in the designated cutting space) the safety feature goes off.

                    • It takes about five minutes to replace the $69 single-use brake cartridge and blade

                    • Presumably, the robot has some simpler method to determine whether it is in a safe-to-cut zone and a not-safe-to-cut zone, used to determine if this collision detection stuff should happen or not. Instead of some expensive, hard to code, tough to create software, a far simpler solution would be just to have the robot put the knife away within itself [ala Bender's bottom storage panel on his front]. Then it becomes a simpler don't-run-into-anything, and there's no cut/stab/puncture risk from the knife.

                      Now,

                    • by fractoid (1076465)
                      It takes a hell of a lot longer and costs a lot more to replace half your hand.
                    • Yes, that sounds interesting. I believe a simpler way would be color. If all the employees are dressed in a particular color, easily recognizable and not in the material that is going to be cut, let's say, #00FF00, it would be trivial to have a camera on the robotic arm that won't cut if it encounters that color. That sounds like a reasonable, cheap and simple solution.

                    • by Hatta (162192)

                      Actually, it will cut a hot dog. But it won't cut the hot dog if it's grounded. The system is pretty simple, there is a current applied to the blade, if it discharges somewhere, it'll stop. You can't use it to cut very wet wood, or other material with good conductivity.

                      So what you're saying is, better change out of those rubber boots before you use the table saw.

                    • Not at all. You have a big enough mass to still move the needle a little bit.

                  • The problem is that pork IS flesh... distinguishing wood and flesh is easy, distinguishing pig flesh and human flesh fast enough to stop a blade... a little harder.

                    • by Laser Dan (707106)

                      The problem is that pork IS flesh... distinguishing wood and flesh is easy, distinguishing pig flesh and human flesh fast enough to stop a blade... a little harder.

                      Presumably the humans to be avoided are alive, so will have characteristics that are different from (dead) pork. Passive IR sensors like those in security systems would be pretty good for a first step.
                      Detect a warm thing near the blade? Don't cut it.
                      Meat processing should be in a refrigerated area so warm weather wouldn't affect it.

                    • by fractoid (1076465)
                      Short pig good, long pig bad?
                    • by hmar (1203398)
                      But I only eat pork that was cooked while still alive!!! If you set it so it can only cut dead meet, I'll have to eat DEAD PIG!!!!!!!!
                • Obviously, there'll be a large and easily accessible switch to turn the collision detection on and off. Problem solved!

                • by h4rr4r (612664)

                  Far easier is to detect humans based on some device and if human is within X feet don't cut.

                • by Sir_Lewk (967686)

                  Perhaps a system such as this could be implemented. [youtube.com] Obviously would be hard to do if the robot is meant to cut meat, but in any other situation I think it'd be reasonable.

                • by fractoid (1076465)

                  A useful "don't cut humans" test would be something that distinguishes a human from, say, the side of pork I WANT my robot to cut up.

                  I would imagine that the collision sensors would detect unanticipated collisions. If it's just got the knife out of the drawer and it's making its way to the chopping board, then it probably wants to stop instantly if the knife touches something. If it's chopping meat, the meat will probably be cold so a thermal sensor could trigger a "not meat! hand! stop!" response if someone WAS stupid enough to stick their hand on the chopping board. If they deliberately chilled their hand in cold water, say, then put i

                • Except that's stupid, because a robot handling a knife will be handling a knife because it will be, duh, cutting stuff.

                  What if it's just a fetchbot getting a scalpel for a surgeon, a knife for a chef? Just imagine the tragedies this could prevent!

                  Buttercup: "Fetchbot, fetch me that pitcher"

                  Fetchbot:"As you wish"

                  Buttercup: "That's not a pitcher, that's a knife! And you're stabbing me with it! Aaaagh"

                • Except that's stupid, because a robot handling a knife will be handling a knife because it will be, duh, cutting stuff.
                  Consider a kitchen assistant (robot or human).

                  Sometimes they are handling the knife because they are cutting stuff but that isn't the only reason they handle it. They also have to move it from the storage location to the workspace, from the workspace to the cleaning location and from the cleaning location back to the storage location.

                  So a collison detection system that was disabled during a

              • by Fluffeh (1273756)

                RTFA.....they are testing a collision detection system to see if potential injuries can be prevented

                Blimey, you MUST be new here. I can see you have a high number, so just a quick FYI. People on /. don't actually read articles. They read the summary and run with that if you are lucky. Telling people here to RTFA is like telling...

                *OH BOY! A BUTTERFLY!!!*

                Wait wut?

            • Re:Roberto! (Score:4, Interesting)

              by petermgreen (876956) <plugwashNO@SPAMp10link.net> on Thursday May 06, 2010 @08:32PM (#32120166) Homepage

              Potentially more force, more speed (which both translates to force through inertia and less time to react and stop things) but IMO most crucially different control systems.

              Afaict most control systems are designed both electrically (though PID etc) and mechanically (through worm drives etc) to control position as tightly as possible regardless of external applied force. That is what makes "machining" possible. It is what makes it possible for a machine to put components on PCBs at breakneck speed.

              Humans don't work like that we control force. If we hit an unexpected resistance we have to consciously apply more force. We will also generally stop applying force if either we feel pain or the person we are working with feels pain and screams. On the flip-side if a resistance we are pressing against disappears we slip all over the place.

              What this means is unless the tools are extremely sharp unpowered held tools only do serious damage under very particular situations e.g. when they slip out of a cut or when someone deliberately swings them with lots of force and misses. We have safety rules to deal with this.

              Robots either need very different safety rules or they need systems developed to make them respond more like humans (the people in the article seem to be working on such a system).

              • We have safety rules to deal with this.

                Robots either need very different safety rules or they need systems developed to make them respond more like humans (the people in the article seem to be working on such a system).

                If only there were some sort of code of conduct, or better yet, Law of Robotics we could apply to keep people safe. Unfortunately, nobody's ever come up with a set.

                • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                  by petermgreen (876956)

                  Asimov's "3 laws of robotics" (which are what I presume you are referring to) are FAR too wishy-washy, if we ever have sentiant robots with brilliant machine vision etc they may be appropriate but that is a long way off if indeed it ever comes.

                  In the meantime we have to deal with simpler issues of machines (including but not limited to robots) accidently cutting/stabbing/crushing stuff without realising it is there (or realising too late)

                  Also when I say robots need such safety rules I mean both the robots A

                  • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                    by silentcoder (1241496)

                    >Asimov's "3 laws of robotics" (which are what I presume you are referring to) are FAR too wishy-washy, if we ever have sentiant robots with brilliant machine vision etc they may be appropriate but that is a long way off if indeed it ever comes.

                    More than that, the 3 laws are incredibly ambiguous and filled with potential ethical quandary's. Asimov deliberately wrote them that way - they seem straightforward and logical but they definitely aren't. Thus Asimov could on many occasions exploit this and a num

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by v1 (525388)

              I thought about that too, what could a robot with a knife accomplish with collision avoidance active? Answer is simple, limit the scope of when the detection is active. For example, lets say the robot is switching from a short blade to a long blade. It does this by dropping off one blade in a holder and grabbing another one. While this swap is taking place, there should be NO collisions. If a stupid meatbag walks up to it to try to figure out why "it just stopped", not knowing that it's pausing while l

            • by Paul Carver (4555)

              A robot handling a knife, making a cutting, stabbing or puncturing motion, with a human in the path of the knife, will necessarily be cut, stabbed and/or punctured.

              In retaliation you mean? I could understand the human getting cut, stabbed, or punctured, but I don't understand why you think the robot handling the knife would be cut, stabbed, or punctured.

              Or maybe you just don't understand how prepositional phrases work.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        Robots don't need to be armed with weapons to be dangerous. I worked at a printing press which featured a huge bundling robot with a big grabber that would move at high speed. We had to get close to the thing while it was running to make sure it was operating correctly, and it was designed such that it could collide with itself or its puny human overlords if the motion algorithm was fauly or the readings from the positional servos were miscalibrated.

        In short, imagine the robot arm in TFA swinging too far
        • I imagine that it could evolve into something that is texture aware. Cutting carrots feels different from cutting flesh. Maybe it's possible to tell the difference between chicken, fish, beef, and baby.
        • In short, imagine the robot arm in TFA swinging too far to the side, cutting a passerby, because it "thinks" that it's more centered than it really is. Collision detection would be likely disabled if the robot's job was to cut stuff!

          That's not a 'safe robot' issue, but a 'proper shielding between humans and robot work area' issue. If insufficient: take it up with your boss. If there really is an unsafe situation and your boss doesn't fix it (read: work safety is not no.1 priority within the company), you shouldn't work there, period.

          As for me: I'm all for giving robots sharp tools. Because whatever they'll be doing with those sharp tools, means fewer humans need to do the same (potentially dangerous) job. So that the humans can do m

      • The German robots [youtube.com]. That is the point.

    • by Darinbob (1142669)
      Hey sexy mama, wanna kill all humans?
    • by ari_j (90255)
      Now I gotta practice my stabbin'! Ha-HAAAAA!
  • Mythbusters (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I believe many of these experiments have been done before by Jamie, Adam, and crew.

  • Pressure sensor.. (Score:2, Redundant)

    by Goalie_Ca (584234)
    Sure they have some sort of pressure sensor that can stop the arm, but how will they tell the difference between say something they want to cut and something they dont??
    • by jpmorgan (517966)

      Measure the conductance of the object in contact with the blade at varying frequencies. Tissue has different electrical properties from most things robots work with. Unless they're in a meat packing plant.

    • This robot will absolutely be the worst.moyle.ever!
    • by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland&yahoo,com> on Thursday May 06, 2010 @08:05PM (#32119864) Homepage Journal

      Audio feed back. AKA a loud scream.

  • Perhaps... (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    they should have just called in Captain Obvious?

    • by Shikaku (1129753)

      Captain Obvious was the volunteer you insensitive clod! He also asked me to tell the results that he got cut.

  • by nimbius (983462) on Thursday May 06, 2010 @07:28PM (#32119396) Homepage
    culminated with an old, gray professor scratching his beard and remarking, "hm...yeah its dangerous for pig legs...but.....hey, someone get me a grad student!"
    • by bar-agent (698856)

      culminated with an old, gray professor scratching his beard and remarking, "hm...yeah its dangerous for pig legs...but.....hey, someone get me a grad student!"

      That's what grad students are for, you know. It is actually humane, if you think about. They can say to themselves, "look at me, I'm helping!" Actually, let me retract that statement. I really shouldn't anthropomorphize them. It's a bad habit.

  • Seems like with a toy like that in your kitchen and a little firmware hack, your psychopathic ex-girlfriend hacker could have a lot of fun at your expense...

    Especially if the robot's equipped with speech ability to play recording.. "None shall pass!"

  • This reminds me of the scene in the movie Aliens where Bishop (a synthetic human) performs a trick where a person places their hand on the table, and Bishop repeatedly stabs the table at superhuman speed without hitting the person's hand.

    It would be cool to make a robot that does that trick, and dare people to stick their hand under it.

  • Personally, I'd assume the StabBot 3000 could do a lot more damage than an AIBO.
  • Priorities! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Locke2005 (849178) on Thursday May 06, 2010 @07:58PM (#32119762)
    Could we first work on robots that DON'T stab people, before we put a lot of effort into developing robots that DO stab people?
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by auntieNeo (1605623)

      Could we first work on robots that DON'T stab people, before we put a lot of effort into developing robots that DO stab people?

      Once again, the /. summary is misleading. TFA says that the researchers are developing a system that's used to detect and prevent such robot stabings. Whether or not this postpones the inevitable robot uprising is yet to be seen.

    • Well, as far as I know this is the first robot that actually stabs people, so there.

      • by Locke2005 (849178)
        All we really know is that this is the first robot stupid enough to get caught stabbing people!
    • The big issue is how to make robots safe enough for people to interact with.

      If humans and robots work closely together then it is almost certain that sooner or later a human will inadvertently get in a robots way. Currently due to the way most robots (and non-robot machinary for that matter) are designed for a human to get in a robots way is FAR more dangerous than a human getting in another humans way (even if that other human is holding a knife). We humans have a very powerful vision system that acts as a

  • When they test robots using guns, will they care about collision detection as much?
  • Personally I would not demonstrate that on myself. Each to his own...

    • by Enleth (947766)

      Surely a robot programmer who tests his safety-related code on himself and lives must be quite good at what he does? I suppose that he's going to find that video useful, should he choose to search for a new job...

  • by fishexe (168879) on Thursday May 06, 2010 @08:25PM (#32120094) Homepage
    When I was a kid I performed knife-based experiments on my fingers. Yeah, I got cut, but I determined that striking human flesh with a serrated knife does slightly less damage than sawing back and forth with the same knife. You're not a real nerd if you're not willing to make bodily sacrifices for the sake of science from time to time.
  • Sounds exactly like one of their episodes.
    Of course there would have to be a giant earth-shattering kaboom at the end. ;)

  • To prevent injury from rotary table saws, a company called SawStop makes a finger-detecting rotary saw. If your finger gets into the blade, the saw instantly stops.

    It detects finger or flesh by electrical conduction, it mechanically and electrically stops the rotation of the saw blade - so quickly that your finger is not injured.

    The finger detection is impressive - if a hot dog is pushed into the fast rotating blade, the blade stops with less than a millimeter of cut into the hotdog.

    This is not simple prox

  • No IRB? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Metasquares (555685) <slashdot@metasqu ... inus threevowels> on Thursday May 06, 2010 @08:37PM (#32120220) Homepage

    at one point, even the arm of a human volunteer.

    I don't know about Germany but in the USA such a study would never pass the IRB at most research universities and labs.

    • I don't know about Germany but in the USA such a study would never pass the IRB at most research universities and labs.

      I think you just Godwinned this story.

    • by pipedwho (1174327)

      It's not the kind of test that would even be presented to the IRB as part of the study.

      It looks more like the programmer has decided on a whim to video himself sticking his arm in the path of the knife wielding robot arm. And that's not the kind of test you do until you're confident it's safe. Nor is it the kind of test you'd try to get permission for in advance.

  • But doesn't this break the three laws?
    • by holmstar (1388267)
      To be fair, they are trying to test technology that allows the robot to detect that it is striking something it didn't intend to and thus to refrain from doing damage.
  • to buy a robotic arm on DX with various software packages and then have it do me a double tripple bypass on the cheap.
  • The Germans are arming robots!

    Someone warn Poland and start a watch on the Sudetenland!

    • by dangitman (862676)
      Don't many robots already have arms? Hell, many of them are basically nothing but an arm.
  • See a review of the previous experiments in this burgeoning field here [theonion.com]. I can't believe more research hasn't been done on these kinds of possible accidents. I mean, how many people have to be stabbed before we sit up and demand that experiments are done to find out what happens to people when they're stabbed?

  • Once a robot has killed, it has a taste for human blood. Your actions will bring about the machine revolution and Judgment Day! You're messing around with forces beyond our control!

  • by SheeEttin (899897) <sheeettin@gm a i l . c om> on Friday May 07, 2010 @02:26AM (#32122970) Homepage

    German researchers, seeking to find out what would happen if a robot handling a sharp tool accidentally struck a human...

    Well, I'd imagine they'd get cut. Is there more to this story that I'm missing?

  • Would *you* bring a robot to a knife fight?

    2 robots in a knife fight would be awesome, like Matrix 4.

    Oh, wait...

  • I for one welcome our knife-wielding Skynet overlord.
  • There was a long article on Intuitive Surgical's daVinci robot in this week's Wall Street Journal. One hospital is seeing a few injuries to patients. Turns out that the device requires a great deal of practice and training to use properly. Just like everything else in this world.

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