PR2 Learns to Read, Can't Pronounce 'Robot' (UPDATE: Yes I Can, Says PR2)

UPenn's GRASP Lab has taught a PR2 to read, but they seem to have neglected to teach it to shut up

1 min read
PR2 Learns to Read, Can't Pronounce 'Robot' (UPDATE: Yes I Can, Says PR2)

UPDATE:Menglong Zhu, the UPenn researcher who taught the PR2 to read, contacted us to say that the robot, named Graspy, took issue with our headline. Graspy says it can indeed pronounce “robot,” and here's the audio to prove it.

Teaching a robot to read out in the wild is no easy task, thanks in large part to the propensity of graphic designers (along with us normal people) to use a bewildering number of different fonts and colors to better communicate creative vision, mood, or just general boredom with Helvetica.

The University of Pennsylvania's GRASP Lab has conquered these factors, along with such things as variable lighting and distance, and has gotten their PR2 (named "Graspy") to wander around, reading things non-stop in a monotone and perhaps slightly confused voice. This newfound literacy will be available for download for both PR2s and generalized ROS platforms, which means that you can give your robot a huge brain upgrade and vastly increase its interactive capabilities with just a few simple clicks.

Two questions remain unanswered, though: can it read Wingdings, and will it, on principle, read something written in Comic Sans?

[ GRASP Lab ]

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The Bionic-Hand Arms Race

The prosthetics industry is too focused on high-tech limbs that are complicated, costly, and often impractical

12 min read
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A photograph of a young woman with brown eyes and neck length hair dyed rose gold sits at a white table. In one hand she holds a carbon fiber robotic arm and hand. Her other arm ends near her elbow. Her short sleeve shirt has a pattern on it of illustrated hands.

The author, Britt Young, holding her Ottobock bebionic bionic arm.

Gabriela Hasbun. Makeup: Maria Nguyen for MAC cosmetics; Hair: Joan Laqui for Living Proof
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In Jules Verne’s 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon, members of the fictitious Baltimore Gun Club, all disabled Civil War veterans, restlessly search for a new enemy to conquer. They had spent the war innovating new, deadlier weaponry. By the war’s end, with “not quite one arm between four persons, and exactly two legs between six,” these self-taught amputee-weaponsmiths decide to repurpose their skills toward a new projectile: a rocket ship.

The story of the Baltimore Gun Club propelling themselves to the moon is about the extraordinary masculine power of the veteran, who doesn’t simply “overcome” his disability; he derives power and ambition from it. Their “crutches, wooden legs, artificial arms, steel hooks, caoutchouc [rubber] jaws, silver craniums [and] platinum noses” don’t play leading roles in their personalities—they are merely tools on their bodies. These piecemeal men are unlikely crusaders of invention with an even more unlikely mission. And yet who better to design the next great leap in technology than men remade by technology themselves?

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