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
"'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."