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
Neutrons pave the way to accelerated production of lithium-ion cells
20.03.2018 | Technische Universität München
Monocrystalline silicon thin film for cost-cutting solar cells with 10-times faster growth rate fabricated
16.03.2018 | Tokyo Institute of Technology
In just a few weeks from now, the Chinese space station Tiangong-1 will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere where it will to a large extent burn up. It is possible that some debris will reach the Earth's surface. Tiangong-1 is orbiting the Earth uncontrolled at a speed of approx. 29,000 km/h.Currently the prognosis relating to the time of impact currently lies within a window of several days. The scientists at Fraunhofer FHR have already been monitoring Tiangong-1 for a number of weeks with their TIRA system, one of the most powerful space observation radars in the world, with a view to supporting the German Space Situational Awareness Center and the ESA with their re-entry forecasts.
Following the loss of radio contact with Tiangong-1 in 2016 and due to the low orbital height, it is now inevitable that the Chinese space station will...
Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, provider of research and development services for OLED lighting solutions, announces the founding of the “OLED Licht Forum” and presents latest OLED design and lighting solutions during light+building, from March 18th – 23rd, 2018 in Frankfurt a.M./Germany, at booth no. F91 in Hall 4.0.
They are united in their passion for OLED (organic light emitting diodes) lighting with all of its unique facets and application possibilities. Thus experts in...
A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...
For the first time, an interdisciplinary team from the University of Basel has succeeded in integrating artificial organelles into the cells of live zebrafish embryos. This innovative approach using artificial organelles as cellular implants offers new potential in treating a range of diseases, as the authors report in an article published in Nature Communications.
In the cells of higher organisms, organelles such as the nucleus or mitochondria perform a range of complex functions necessary for life. In the networks of...
Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...
19.03.2018 | Event News
16.03.2018 | Event News
13.03.2018 | Event News
21.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
21.03.2018 | Materials Sciences
21.03.2018 | Life Sciences