Kinect-Powered Robot Lets You Clean Up Your House Remotely
Yaskawa's SmartPal VII is perhaps not the friendliest looking (or most modern looking) mobile manipulation robot. It may also not be the smartest, but that's okay, since it's designed to be teleoperated, relying entirely on you to provide the brains.
Using a Kinect gesture interface and motion-tracking system, the SmartPal VII is perfectly suited to wander around your mom's house, "cleaning up" for her by snapping the necks of her stuffed animals like twigs at your command.
While the human is directly controlling the arms of the SmartPal VII with his arms, the rest of the motion of the robot (bending at the waist, base movement, and so forth) is all managed invisibly to the end user. So, if you want to remotely pick something up off the floor, you can just reach towards the floor, and the robot will drive forward and bend down as necessary. The bot is also capable of autonomous navigation to some degree, with gyros, infrared sensors, and what look to be a pair of LIDAR scanners at the front and back.
It's easy to look at teleoperation as some kind of cop-out compared to full autonomy, and yeah, maybe it would be better if this robot was capable of cleaning up the house on its own. But we're not quite there yet, and in the meantime, telepresence offers a simple and reliable way of bridging the gap between being somewhere and doing something yourself, and having a robot autonomously do it for you: You may have to help the robot out, but at least you don't have to drive to your mom's house to do it.
And even when we do have (mostly) autonomous robots doing all of our household chores, there's still going to be that 1 percent of the time where the robot gets lost or confused, and having an easy way for a human to jump in and be effective with minimal training will make both humans and robots that much more productive.