What has 3 fingers, 2 cameras, and a segway? The Personal Robot at the Intel Research lab in Pittsburgh! Researchers from Intel and Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) have been developing a robot that can function autonomously in a typical home environment – doing the dishes, getting food, assisting humans in our daily lives.The great thing about this project is that much of the code has been released in open source. This allows other robotics engineers and enthusiasts to benefit from, and contribute to, the overall project. Intel’s research labs in Berkeley, Seattle and Pittsburgh operate in an open, collaborative model. This Personal Robot project is a prime example of that philosophy. Integrating research in object recognition, location awareness, grasping and object manipulation, etc the team is developing a robot that uses artifical intelligence to solve problems such as what a room looks like, it’s physical location in the room and what other objects are in the room too. Intel researchers and graduate students from Carnegie Mellon University are developing algorithms called “primitives” to solve these problems. Just like it takes a toddler practice and help from her parents to learn how to walk and talk, the robot is being “taught” how to map its location in a room using digital photographs, grids and various location markers. It takes a combination of around a dozen of these primitives working in harmony for a robot to accomplish a task that we take for granted. Given the task of “bring me juice from the fridge,” a robot must use primitives that not only figure out where the robot is in a room, but also identify any other obstacles like chairs, tables or people. Once it figures out what is in the room, it has to locate the fridge and maneuver over to it. Then it must figure out the best angle to grasp the handle in order to open the door without damaging the fridge or it’s arm. Using several cameras mounted on the robot, it then uses object recognition software to identify what items are in the fridge so it can find the carton of milk. Another primitive has constraints on how to pick up certain objects, for example not shaking a can of soda or tipping over a cup of juice, or how heavy a gallon of milk is. The ultimate goal of the Personal Robotic project is to develop robots that can be a benefit to humans, whether it is freeing us from the mundane task of household chores or assisting an elderly or disabled person to stay in their home.
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