Willow Garage PR2 Robot Now Plays Pool

After learning how to open doors, plug itself into wall outlets, and fold towels, the robot now can play pool

1 min read
Willow Garage PR2 Robot Now Plays Pool

willow garage pr2 playing pool

The PR2 robot, built by Silicon Valley robotics firm Willow Garage, is learning new tricks everyday. After navigating around the office opening doors and plugging itself into wall outlets, and after learning how to fold towels, the robot now can play pool.

Watch:

[youtube //www.youtube.com/v/HMx1xW2E4Gg&hl=en_US&fs=1& expand=1]

From Willow's blog:

With only a small team of developers and a week's worth of development, the PR2 can now play pool! The "Poolshark" team started last Monday and began making shots on Friday. The PR2 won't be hustling you in pool halls anytime soon, but it pocketed five shots on Friday before the team decided it was time to celebrate.

The Poolshark team dealt with numerous technical challenges throughout the week: engineering a special grip and bridge so the PR2 could hold the cue, a ball detector, table localization, visualizations and input tools, shot selector, and more.

A big thanks goes to Alon Altman for his open-source FastFiz billiards library. FastFiz is a physics and rules engine for billiards that the Poolshark team used to select which shots the PR2 should take. The Poolshark team has released its own code in the billiards stack.

June is "Hackathon" month, so there are two more one-week hackathons to come: pushing a cart and fetching a drink from a refrigerator. It's one down, two to go!

These look like promising applications. Or as Evan Ackerman at BotJunkie aptly puts it:

A robot that can play pool and fetch me beer? Hellooooo new best friend.

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This article is part of our special report on AI, “The Great AI Reckoning.

"I should probably not be standing this close," I think to myself, as the robot slowly approaches a large tree branch on the floor in front of me. It's not the size of the branch that makes me nervous—it's that the robot is operating autonomously, and that while I know what it's supposed to do, I'm not entirely sure what it will do. If everything works the way the roboticists at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) in Adelphi, Md., expect, the robot will identify the branch, grasp it, and drag it out of the way. These folks know what they're doing, but I've spent enough time around robots that I take a small step backwards anyway.

The robot, named RoMan, for Robotic Manipulator, is about the size of a large lawn mower, with a tracked base that helps it handle most kinds of terrain. At the front, it has a squat torso equipped with cameras and depth sensors, as well as a pair of arms that were harvested from a prototype disaster-response robot originally developed at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory for a DARPA robotics competition. RoMan's job today is roadway clearing, a multistep task that ARL wants the robot to complete as autonomously as possible. Instead of instructing the robot to grasp specific objects in specific ways and move them to specific places, the operators tell RoMan to "go clear a path." It's then up to the robot to make all the decisions necessary to achieve that objective.

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