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PR2 Learns How To Be a Robobutler Without Destroying Things

Untrained humans have trouble moving open drinks around on trays, but new programming makes PR2 a pro

1 min read
PR2 Learns How To Be a Robobutler Without Destroying Things

While IEEE Spectrum has not yet seen fit to hire me my own butler (like most bloggers tend to expect), as far as I can tell (and let me just clarify that I have absolutely no idea about this whatsoever) being a butler requires mastery of three things: looking good in a tux, having a butler-y attitude, and not spilling things on trays. PR2 might be able to cover those first two, but we now have video proof that it's nailed the third one: PR2 is officially a traymaster.

The deal with moving things around on trays, if you've ever tried it, is that your goal should be to minimize the lateral force on whatever is on the tray, because lateral forces make things fly off and crash to the ground and then your mom yells at you and you don't get to play butler anymore. Sigh. This involves tilting the tray in just the right way, and Tobias Kunz, a PhD student from Georgia Tech, has taught PR2 how do pull it off during his internship at Willow Garage:

And somebody from Willow had better comment and let us know what's going on at the very end there: it looks like some sort of mechanical bull surfing thing with only a questionable relationship to robotics, but maybe they're going to stick a PR2 on there at some point? I'll tell you what: I'd pay money to see that. Good money.

Via [ Willow Garage ]

The Conversation (0)

How Robots Can Help Us Act and Feel Younger

Toyota’s Gill Pratt on enhancing independence in old age

10 min read
An illustration of a woman making a salad with robotic arms around her holding vegetables and other salad ingredients.
Dan Page

By 2050, the global population aged 65 or more will be nearly double what it is today. The number of people over the age of 80 will triple, approaching half a billion. Supporting an aging population is a worldwide concern, but this demographic shift is especially pronounced in Japan, where more than a third of Japanese will be 65 or older by midcentury.

Toyota Research Institute (TRI), which was established by Toyota Motor Corp. in 2015 to explore autonomous cars, robotics, and “human amplification technologies,” has also been focusing a significant portion of its research on ways to help older people maintain their health, happiness, and independence as long as possible. While an important goal in itself, improving self-sufficiency for the elderly also reduces the amount of support they need from society more broadly. And without technological help, sustaining this population in an effective and dignified manner will grow increasingly difficult—first in Japan, but globally soon after.

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