Movies portray robots that can move through the world as easily as humans, and use their hands to operate everything from dishwashers to computers with ease. But in reality, the creation of robots with these skills remains a major challenge. Researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst are solving this problem by giving a mobile robotic arm the ability to “see” its environment through a digital camera.
“Mobile robots play an important role in many settings, including planetary exploration and manufacturing,” says Dov Katz, a doctoral student of computer science. “Giving them the ability to manipulate objects will extend their use in medical care and household assistance.”
Results of experiments performed by Katz and Oliver Brock, a professor of computer science, were presented at the Proceedings of the International Electrical and Electronics Engineers Conference on Robotics and Automation May 21 in Pasadena, Calif.
So far, the team has successfully taught their creation, dubbed the UMan, or UMass Mobile Manipulator, to approach unfamiliar objects, such as scissors, garden shears and jointed wooden toys – and learn how they work by pushing on them and observing how they change, the same process used by children as they explore the world.
Like a child forming a memory, UMan then stores this knowledge of how the objects move as a “kinematic model” which can be used to perform specific tasks, such as opening scissors and shears to a 90 degree angle. Video shot by the team shows UMan easily completing this task.
According to Katz, teaching the UMan, to “walk” was the easy part. “UMan sits on a base with four wheels that allow it to move in any direction, and a system of lasers keeps it from bumping into objects by judging their distance from the base,” says Katz, who filmed the UMan taking its first trip around the laboratory navigating through a maze of boxes.
The key was giving the UMan eyes in the form of a digital camera that sits on the wrist. Once they added the camera, which coupled manipulating objects with the ability to “see,” the complex computer algorithms needed to instruct the UMan to perform specific tasks became much simpler.
A video shot by the team shows what the UMan “sees” as it approaches a jointed wooden toy on a wooden table, which appears as a uniform field of green dots. The first gentle touch from the hand quickly separates the toy from the background, and moving the various parts eventually labels each section with a specific color, identifying all the moving pieces and the joints holding them together. UMan then stores this knowledge, and can use it to put the object in a specific shape.
Future research by Katz and Brock will focus on teaching UMan to operate different types of machines, including doorknobs and light switches, and work on taking UMan’s manipulation skills into three dimensions.
“Once robots learn to combine movement, perception and the manipulation of objects, they will be able to perform meaningful work in environments that are unstructured and constantly changing,” says Katz. “At that point, we will have robots that can explore new planets and clean houses in a flexible way.”
Dov Katz | newswise
Waste from paper and pulp industry supplies raw material for development of new redox flow batteries
12.10.2017 | Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz
Low-cost battery from waste graphite
11.10.2017 | Empa - Eidgenössische Materialprüfungs- und Forschungsanstalt
University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event
On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...
Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.
Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....
Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).
When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...
Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.
How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...
Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.
It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...
17.10.2017 | Event News
10.10.2017 | Event News
10.10.2017 | Event News
19.10.2017 | Materials Sciences
19.10.2017 | Materials Sciences
19.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy