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Robotics Hardware Idle

Willow Garage Robot Fetches Beer, Engineers Rejoice 114

kkleiner writes "Willow Garage has pulled off the ultimate engineering feat: teaching a PR2 robot to fetch you a beer from the fridge. Not only can the PR2 select the correct brew from the fridge, it can deliver, and even open the beer as needed. That's right, all the humans have to do is drink and relax. Prepare yourself for some major robot-envy as you check out the PR2 delivering much-needed refreshment in the video."

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Willow Garage Robot Fetches Beer, Engineers Rejoice

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Stock in females is going to take a dive

  • by Myji Humoz ( 1535565 ) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @08:19PM (#32833956)
    ... of the 21st century.
  • by NotBornYesterday ( 1093817 ) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @08:24PM (#32833992) Journal
    It is things like this that make me feel there is hope for humanity, and that we're not in an unstoppable downward spiral.
    • Obligatory scene of Bender going back in time and teaching PR2 to reply "Bite my shiny metal ass" when you ask for a beer.
  • Heck... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by msauve ( 701917 ) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @08:24PM (#32833994)
    A cooler filled with beer sitting next to your chair is cheaper, faster, and doesn't require a specialized, dedicated refrigerator. And think of all the beer you could buy for the price of one robot (and if the robot were really cool, like Bender, he'd drink all your beer before he could deliver it).
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      If you think this is really about getting beer then you're a moron. The fact it gets beer is just a side benefit of making something really fun and cool.

    • Re:Heck... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by PaulMeigh ( 1277544 ) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @08:37PM (#32834116)

      Cheaper and faster?!? Did you miss the delivered by an awesome robot part of the video?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by nbauman ( 624611 )

      Their *other* project is a robot capable of cleaning up after a party. That could be even more practical.

    • by dwywit ( 1109409 )
      Perhaps - but what do you put in a cooler to chill the beer? Ice. And how do you get the ice? By using the freezer compartment in a refrigerator. Of course, if you don't want to use a refrigerator for your ice, you could always hop in the car, drive to a shop, and buy some ice. Sorta defeats the purpose of not having to get off yo lazy fat ass, though.
    • by f3rret ( 1776822 )

      A cooler filled with beer sitting next to your chair is cheaper, faster, and doesn't require a specialized, dedicated refrigerator. And think of all the beer you could buy for the price of one robot (and if the robot were really cool, like Bender, he'd drink all your beer before he could deliver it).

      Do you want me to get off your lawn?

  • But does it have a sassy attitude?
  • by Anonymous Coward

    We really do live in a golden age, (sniff)

  • Everything is fine until the robot starts getting uppity. "I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that"
  • Why a web interface? seriously...

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Why a web interface? seriously...

      The web interface allows you to order beer from any web enabled device, such as a smart phone!

      • by SirSlud ( 67381 )

        If you are near a robot, a fridge with free beer, and have a phone.

        I get it, the research is fun, but beer + robot is not as awesome as publishing how you did that. In the long term, it's all practical. In the short term, who the fuck cares?

      • by haxney ( 1769366 )

        Why a web interface? seriously...

        The web interface allows you to order beer from any web enabled device, such as a smart phone!

        Or a car!

    • by cosm ( 1072588 )

      Why a web interface? seriously...

      As to an OS specific interface? What would you prefer? A web interface makes cross-platform accessibility a lot simpler. Or am I missing your implication?

      • by Khyber ( 864651 )

        I would much rather be able to say "Robot, go get me a fucking pint of Guinness" and have someone else quip up "Get me a Zima!" and the robot knows who ordered what by voice recognition.

        Too lazy to type, much easier to speak.

        • and for backwards compatibility with previous solutions it should respond be being called 'bitch'

        • The thing might come back and report that there is currently no Guinness in the fridge that is procreating.
      • An LCD panel on the robot with a touch screen interface? Or maybe voice recognition is the way forward:
        "Hey metal man, get me a Trans Galactic Gargle-Blaster!"
        "Here I am, brain the size of a planet and it's 'Get me a drink!'. You know I have a pain in the all the diodes down my left side, don't you?"

        "R2, get me an apple-tini!"
        "bleep-bloop wheee, bleep"
        "What? Just get me the damn drink!"

        Actually, that may be asking for trouble..anyway...insisting on a web interface requires that the network is up.
    • Because after a few beers no one has the capacity or the patience to use a telnet interface with an 8 point font.
    • I'm sure they could program voice control, but it's probably not as high a priority on their to-do list as the "Have robot get beer" part.

      As for the web interface, why not? My phone handles the web just fine, and I don't carry around a remote control. If it were voice controlled, you'd still want to have a way to control it when it's out of hearing range, the web/phone would still be the most convenient.

  • by Lord_of_the_nerf ( 895604 ) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @09:02PM (#32834286)

    Can it be taught to cut you off?

    "Buddy, I can't let you drive home without breaking rule 1."

  • I can't wait for the App!
  • Anybody else ever read the book "Robots have no Tails" written over 50 years ago by Henry Kuttner and his wife?

    I remember thinking it was fall-over funny as a teenager at least-- one of the stories in the book revolved around an inventor who created the world's most intelligent and capable robot. Unfortunately he created it while he was on a drunken bender and had no idea what purpose he had intended for the robot now that he was sober. In the end he finds that he had created the perfect robot so it cou

    • Isn't that what kids are for?
    • Just to open them; the fetching was a side-benefit. Unfortunately, the last company that made the old-fashioned cans Gallegher favoured stopped production shortly thereafter.

  • This is indeed news of the highest importance, and a technological feat worthy of major consideration in the scientific community! I've got a Moderator Point. Now if I only had a Nobel Prize vote...

  • If so...
      sudo get me a beer []

  • ... welcome our robotic beer-fetching overlords.
  • Glass. Ice. Gin. Tonic. A squeeze of lime. Your cocktail, Dr. Marner.
  • Until it can deliver the beer at the optimum serving temperature for the style, remove a cork & cage, choose the right type of glass and pour it leaving the sediment in the bottom of the bottle (if there is any), not interested.
    • That was my first thought too. God damn beer snobs....

      Sure, it can fetch and open standard, mass-produced beers, but never mind good beers, optimum serving temperature or correct glasses - this thing can't even pour a beer into a glass in the first place!

      Why would I want a robot that can't even pour beer? That's the second most important part, after drinking it. And it doesn't look like it can use a growler either....
  • by iamhassi ( 659463 ) on Thursday July 08, 2010 @12:42AM (#32835666) Journal
    I like the robot idea, but it's a bit slow: At 1:40 it shows the robot fetching a beer in 1 minute, but it's sped up 5x, so it really took 5 minutes to get one beer [].

    5 minutes to get me a beer? Think I'll just get a dog. []
  • ...but so do dogs that are trained to do the same thing. But unlike a dog, a robot won't chew your shoes, defecate in the yard, or lack opposable digits to pop the top on a beer bottle. Still, that entire issue of looking for a charging port in the middle of the night kind of bothers me.
  • by Paul Fernhout ( 109597 ) on Thursday July 08, 2010 @01:55AM (#32836006) Homepage

    For possibilities on restructuring our economy to deal with the decining valued of human labor from similiar innovations, starting from Marshall Brain's ideas and including many other people's suggestions, see this section of a knol I organized on moving beyond the jobless recovery resulting from structural unemployment (due to automation, robotics, better design, voluntary social networks, and limited demand due to "reduce, reuse, recycle" and the law of diminishing returns etc.): []

    Believers in mainstream economic theology saw fit to delete most of that content from Wikipedia in part on the grounds that Marshall Brain's and other people's points on the declining value of most human labor is just "speculation" and science fiction. Our scarcity-based economics is more and more out-of-sync with our social and technical realities of potential abundance, but it is apparently heresy to talk about it, and the most people will usually do is talk about ways to make "artificial scarcity" to keep the system working via "business as usual".

    I've been thinking about the social aspects of advanced robotics on and off for a quarter century since I spent a year hanging out in Hans Moravec's Mobile Robot Lab (and Red Whittaker's FRL) around 1985 (when Hans was working on the book "Mind Children"). I applied to Willow Garage a couple months ago to get these robots to pick up toys, sort LEGO, etc. (be nice to have them do food prep, too, for improved human health) but they were not interested. :-( Though I was looking for something where I could work from home on the East Coast, so that may have been part of it, since what (human) homeschooling family guy can afford to buy a house with room for a human child near Stanford? :-) I'm also not blaming them, since they probably have their pick of applicants, and I have not worked professionally with robots in two decades, and I have spent a lot of the past decade doing stay-at-home Dad stuff. I'm not sure *I'd* even hire me at this point to do anything technical. :-) Still, with the Stanford area being as pricey as it is, Willow Garage is probably mostly left with rich people or young people building these mind children, which is why you see this video of a robot fetching a beer and not, say, putting away toys, preparing a nutritious soup for the family from whole foods, or being a good playmate for a human child (like Robbie in Asimov's story about a robot nanny and playmate). I can hope that those sorts of things will come sooner rather than later.

    Working with a PR2 might have been a lot of fun, but in any case I had also hoped applying might get the people (and maybe eventually robots :-) at Willow Garage to at least read my writings like the above about socio-economic apsects of this work. Creating technology like this without at the same time promoting social change as outlined above (to a gift economy, a basic income, local subsistence, and/or a resource-based economy) is otherwise just asking for massive social unrest and suffering, like Marshall Brain talks about in his short story "Manna". Willow Garage is getting everything else right (like a FOSS focus and as in this video obvious technical excellence) -- except it may be missing talking about that economic transition big picture part needed to make robots like this a blessing and not a curse. So, in that sense, Willow Garage may dangerously lack a coherent vision (even if it makes amazing technology)? I don't know -- they may be clued in and not talking about it, but is does not seem to be reflected on the web site, with nothing directly relevant for these searches: []

    • If you are the sort of knowledge worker who can program robots, your labor is not in competition with the abilities of this robot.

      In general, people in modern countries are expected to constantly do more and more complex things for the same pay. Think of it as a physical Turing test.

      There is no upper limit on how much work there is to do, as you said there is no scarcity - of work. Don't worry about robots making us all jobless.

      • "If you are the sort of knowledge worker who can program robots, your labor is not in competition with the abilities of this robot."

        And what about any relatives or friends or neighbors or citizens I might care about? And besides, what if in the next twenty years this research leads to more general AIs, especially as computing costs continue to drop? Also, you are ignoring that even if some human abilities remain of value for a time, technology is an amplifier, so soon one programmer will be able to do the w

        • Woah. I'll have to come back to this one. But you present a compelling case in both posts Paul.

          In general I'm against the idea that there is a limit to how far we can go. There is a lot of uncharted territory, that is for sure. We certainly have come up with ways to keep ourselves busy - ways that seemed unimaginable 100 years ago when industrialization greatly reduced the requirements for raw labor.

          We cannot be sure that we don't come up with another higher calling that robots can't do over the next 100 ye

          • Thanks for the comments. I would agree with you that there is no upper limit as to what people would do -- the real issue is how they do it and what social arrangement surround that. For example, when someone plants a Redwood tree seed, how much work are they really doing to produce a huge tree? The tree grows on its own if the conditions are right (granted, it might be more likely to grow with some occasional tending). Our technology as it incorporates robotics and AI will be more like that -- so we'll see

            • Once again, you have produced an essay of astounding length and intricacy.

              While I can't possibly answer to all the nuances of your argument, I agree that our social structure is based on scarcity. We are quickly approaching a post-scarcity society - through labor replacements, more efficient technologies and the potential for superstructures such as solar power satellites, space elevators and so on.

              I don't think that decisions about the social aspects of this work lie in the hands of the roboticists, though

  • Love how it goes all limp wristed at 2:00 :)
  • God I hate my job.
  • Seems that successful beer running is a Robotics printed Hello World.
  • 1. It does not look like Bender.
    2. It does not open the bottles with a laser. WTF? All that effort to build a beer-fetching robot, and NOBODY thought of lasers? Are you freaking KIDDING me? What is wrong with these people?

"Let every man teach his son, teach his daughter, that labor is honorable." -- Robert G. Ingersoll