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HERB Learns to Separate Oreos, Probably Thinks Humans are Crazy

CMU's robotic butler is perhaps the most ridiculous way of separating creme from cookie

1 min read
HERB Learns to Separate Oreos, Probably Thinks Humans are Crazy

There's a reason why Oreos exist in their present form: they're a carefully formulated combination of exactly the right amount of cookie with exactly the right amount of creme. But that's just not good enough for humans, because humans are crazy, and rather than just buying some chocolate cookies or some frosting, we instead insist on disemboweling our Oreos to separate the creme from the cookie the hard way. We're willing to go to absurdly awesome lengths to do it, most recently including CMU's HERB robotic butler.

If a frying pan is ineffective, try a knife. Good thing to be teaching robots, eh?

Most of this seems to be autonomous, although honestly, it's a little bit hard to tell, although it was nice of CMU to put together this making-of video:

Despite the fact that this is a shameless promo for Oreos, it takes an impressively fine level of control to be able to manipulate the cookies without destroying them. I can only imagine how many broken Oreos the CMU students must have had to eat over the course of this project. Must've been tough. I just hope they had enough milk available, but maybe that'll be the next thing they teach HERB to provide for them.

[ HERB ] via [ CMU ]

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How the U.S. Army Is Turning Robots Into Team Players

Engineers battle the limits of deep learning for battlefield bots

11 min read
Robot with threads near a fallen branch

RoMan, the Army Research Laboratory's robotic manipulator, considers the best way to grasp and move a tree branch at the Adelphi Laboratory Center, in Maryland.

Evan Ackerman
LightGreen

“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.

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

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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