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
TU Graz researchers show that enzyme function inhibits battery ageing
21.03.2017 | Technische Universität Graz
New nanofiber marks important step in next generation battery development
13.03.2017 | Georgia Institute of Technology
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
22.03.2017 | Materials Sciences
22.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
22.03.2017 | Materials Sciences