Beta

Slashdot: News for Nerds

×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

The Open Source Humanoid Robot and Its Many Uses

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the billy-connolly-in-fido dept.

Robotics 93

ruphus13 writes with a story about the open-source centric Willow Garage project (last mentioned on Slashdot early last year), which is making progress in creating helpful humanoid robots for household use. From the article: "PR2 is the mobile hardware design for Willow Garage robots, featuring stereo and laser sensors ... Senior citizens are a big part of the target audience that Willow Garage is aiming for. "All industrialized countries are facing aging populations that require assistance and care to remain independent into old age. By 2020 close to 20 percent of the US population will be over 65," the project leaders say. "These numbers are even higher in Western European and Asian countries." Willow Garage is aiming to produce several types of assistive robots." The PR2 robots are capable of performing critical tasks like cleaning rooms and bringing beer from a refrigerator."

cancel ×

93 comments

Robotics (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24913505)

I've seen a dog who humps his bed and then licks his weenie for hours on end.

article WTF? (3, Funny)

InterruptDescriptorT (531083) | more than 5 years ago | (#24913603)

"The PR2 robots are capable of performing critical tasks like cleaning rooms and bringing beer from a refrigerator."

(emphasis mine)

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy several cold ones on a daily basis, but is it fair to qualify the ability of a robot to procure a can of lager from the fridge as a critical task?

Re:article WTF? (2, Funny)

mustafap (452510) | more than 5 years ago | (#24913629)

>is it fair to qualify the ability of a robot to procure a can of lager from the fridge as a critical task?

You obviously get out too much. Are you sure you should be reading this site?

Re:article WTF? (4, Insightful)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 5 years ago | (#24914027)

Actually, if they ever get the robots to the point to where you can have a custom made one that looks like the hot chick of your dreams, that will fuck/suck on demand, and never bitch and actually shut up on demand...

The human race will cease to exist.

Re:article WTF? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24914153)

will there be a meaning in the human race's existence then?

Re:article WTF? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24914265)

will there be a meaning in the human race's existence then?

No, but is that such a bad thing [wikipedia.org] ?

Arling and Cameron (1)

Philip K Dickhead (906971) | more than 5 years ago | (#24914319)

No, i don't care for your metal looks [flickr.com]
I don't care for your bleeps and bloops
Go away why don't you just shut off
Your pretty smile
Digital dial
I hate your every bolt and screw
I don't like anything about you

You're a dirty robot
(I'm a dirty robot)
You're a dirty robot
(I'm a dirty robot)
You're a dirty robot
(I'm a dirty robot)
You're a dirty robot
(I'm a dirty robot)

Yes, everyday i've been thinking 'bout you
In my dreams, we've been making out
Isn't that what human life's about
(No)
My circuitry comes off the scale
Baby, got the hots for you
My index sent a shock right through
My body needs you
My body needs you

You're a dirty robot
(I'm a dirty robot)
You're a dirty robot
(I'm a dirty robot)
You're a dirty robot
(I'm a dirty robot)
You're a dirty robot
(I'm a dirty robot)

You're a dirty robot
You're a dirty robot
You're a dirty robot
You're a dir-dir-dirty robot

I'm a dirty robot
I'm a dirty robot
I'm a dirty robot
I'm a dirty robot

Re:article WTF? (1)

mweather (1089505) | more than 5 years ago | (#24914379)

Well, this one can give you a Dutch Rudder.

Re:article WTF? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24914461)

Actually, if they ever get the robots to the point to where you can have a custom made one that looks like the hot chick of your dreams, that will fuck/suck on demand, and never bitch and actually shut up on demand...

The human race will cease to exist.

Leela: She doesn't really love you. She can't. She's just a machine that--

Bender: [shaking his fist] Stay away from our women! You got metal fever, boy! Metal fever!

Fry: Well, so what if I love a robot? It's not hurting anybody.

Hermes: My God! He never took middle school hygiene. He never saw the propaganda film.

Farnsworth: It's just lucky I keep a copy in the VCR at all times.

[He presses a button and a film title, I Dated A Robot!, appears on the screen. In the movie a couple sit in a cafe and stare into each other's eyes. A narrator walks into the scene.]

Narrator: [in movie] Ordinary human dating. It's enjoyable and it serves an important purpose. [He turns the table over and a crying baby appears. He turns it back again.] But when a human dates an artificial mate, there is no purpose. Only enjoyment. And that leads to ... tragedy.

Re:article WTF? (1)

mustafap (452510) | more than 5 years ago | (#24938905)

>But when a human dates an artificial mate, there is no purpose. Only enjoyment. And that leads to ... tragedy

Yep, that's dildos for you. Bastards.

Re:article WTF? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24913665)

If you absolutely wanted the estate, or actually needed it ASAP, then maybe you'd buy granny one of the proven "Intoxicator" range of robots, and hope machine-motived binge drinking helps put your ancestry in a critical condition...

Re:article WTF? (2, Funny)

Freebirth Toad (1197193) | more than 5 years ago | (#24913705)

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy several cold ones on a daily basis, but is it fair to qualify the ability of a robot to procure a can of lager from the fridge as a critical task?

The robot will have to analyze the bottle critically so it doesn't mistakenly bring me an ale.

Re:article WTF? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24913861)

You ARE NOT new here, but you behave as one.

Re:article WTF? (5, Insightful)

kevintron (1024817) | more than 5 years ago | (#24914079)

Sending a robot into the household makes it much more difficult to predict which tasks will end up defined as "critical" by the people giving it orders. My first reaction to the bit about bringing beer was the same as yours, but it brings up some interesting issues.

Suppose the robot is cleaning a room when its human orders it to drop everything and go fetch some beer and food. The human is too busy watching the game, or playing bridge or whatever it is humans do, and doesn't know the robot was in the middle of cleaning the toilet. Will the robot realize it needs to sanitize its manipulators before fetching food, even if the human has placed all orders including beer into the "critical" category? This might be an easy decision to program into its code, but only if the designers have considered this possibility.

Another commenter here said the robot should let you stop taking your prescription meds if you'd rather spend the evening drinking. Your doctor might not want your robot to contribute to your unhealthy behavior. What should the robot obey: yours, or your doctor's orders? Or should it just obey you, but then quietly report your pill-skipping and beer-drinking to your insurance company?

In many other ways a household helper robot can get complicated to design, compared to designing an industrial robot for the factory floor. This may make it a good candidate for the "many eyes" model of open source design methods.

Re:article WTF? (1)

Korin43 (881732) | more than 5 years ago | (#24914587)

I think the question of who's orders should it obey, yours or the doctors is pretty obvious. I doubt many people would want robots who 3 times a day tackle them and force feed them pills..

Re:article WTF? (2, Interesting)

sweet_petunias_full_ (1091547) | more than 5 years ago | (#24915665)

Sure, but what if the robots are supposed to watch you for terroristic behavior? Do you think you'll be able to stop them from recording your voice and reporting any suspicious commentary back to Skynet Central?

Re:article WTF? (1)

kdemetter (965669) | more than 5 years ago | (#24916381)

Sure, but what if the robots are supposed to watch you for terroristic behavior? Do you think you'll be able to stop them from recording your voice and reporting any suspicious commentary back to Skynet Central?

I hope so , otherwise we would all be screwed:

Using robots the perform a part of the separation of powers ( executive, a legislature, judiciary ) , could lead to a dictatorship , were however programs the robots rules .

Re:article WTF? (2, Informative)

anotherzeb (837807) | more than 5 years ago | (#24916143)

Just an idea, but how about:

1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
2. A robot must obey orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

so sanitizing manipulators and refusing drink would be covered by the first law as long as the robot knew that not doing it might harm a human being

Re:article WTF? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24920983)

Some of that isn't as hard to do as you may think. Latching onto a programming metaphor, there should already be pre-conditions and post-conditions attached to each function. Anything flagged as food/drug/human handling should have the sanitation requirement. Similarly, the food interaction check, though that would only be as good as the robot's (potentially imperfect) knowledge of what its owner has already eaten that day.

The ethics questions are, again, more programming decisions rather than anything impossible/hard. I think the hard parts of designing a service robot these days are still mechanical and image-recognition issues.

Re:article WTF? (5, Insightful)

HadouKen24 (989446) | more than 5 years ago | (#24914201)

If it can bring beer from the refrigerator, it can bring pretty much anything else of similar shape and size.

I have a great aunt who is currently living alone, but can only manage to do so because she has regular support from family members, and won't be able to manage for much longer. She isn't eating as much as she probably needs because of a lack of appetite. It's becoming more and more difficult for her to get up and walk to the refrigerator to get more food or a relatively calorie rich Slimfast shake.

A robot capable of bringing her food and diet shakes from the refrigerator would make it much easier for her to ingest the calories she needs. That would help her maintain her health and her independence for substantially longer than she would be able to otherwise. So, yes. The important thing isn't the beer, but the fact that the robot can retrieve items from the refrigerator. This task is very critical for a number of people suffering from disabilities, age-related or not.

Re:article WTF? (1)

mweather (1089505) | more than 5 years ago | (#24914415)

Beer is chock full of calories. It's liquid bread. Get grandma some Old Guardian Barley Wine.

Re:article WTF? (1)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 5 years ago | (#24915177)

"If it can bring beer from the refrigerator, it can bring pretty much anything else of similar shape and size."

Who needs a robot for that? Isn't that what a wife/girlfriend are for?

Re:article WTF? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24917223)

A robot capable of bringing her food and diet shakes from the refrigerator would make it much easier for her to ingest the calories she needs. That would help her maintain her health and her independence for substantially longer than she would be able to otherwise. So, yes. The important thing isn't the beer, but the fact that the robot can retrieve items from the refrigerator. This task is very critical for a number of people suffering from disabilities, age-related or not.

If I myself was in such situation (disability), I would prefer a personal exoskeleton to a robot. It seems so much more versatile.

Re:article WTF? (1)

kabocox (199019) | more than 5 years ago | (#24919513)

I have a great aunt who is currently living alone, but can only manage to do so because she has regular support from family members, and won't be able to manage for much longer. She isn't eating as much as she probably needs because of a lack of appetite. It's becoming more and more difficult for her to get up and walk to the refrigerator to get more food or a relatively calorie rich Slimfast shake.

A robot capable of bringing her food and diet shakes from the refrigerator would make it much easier for her to ingest the calories she needs. That would help her maintain her health and her independence for substantially longer than she would be able to otherwise. So, yes. The important thing isn't the beer, but the fact that the robot can retrieve items from the refrigerator. This task is very critical for a number of people suffering from disabilities, age-related or not.

There is a part of me that wonders what the robots will think of keeping blobs of human fat as pets in the near future. There is no way that we'd rebel since that would involve getting off the couch, and we'd shortly depend on those robots to bring us all our food/drinks/entertainment products. Why would we rebel?

Re:article WTF? (1)

The Yuckinator (898499) | more than 5 years ago | (#24915331)

Yes.

Re:article WTF? (1)

fugue (4373) | more than 5 years ago | (#24923933)

It is if you're a beer critic.

Re:article WTF? (1)

HTH NE1 (675604) | more than 5 years ago | (#25060701)

Indeed, I can think of far more critical tasks for which a robot is suited.

For instance, some days you just can't get rid of a bomb.

Beer is now critical? (1)

mjuarez (12463) | more than 5 years ago | (#24913633)

The PR2 robots are capable of performing critical tasks like cleaning rooms and bringing beer from a refrigerator.

Awesome. Didn't know beer is one of a senior's "critical tasks" in order to live. Heck, if it's Starbucks Frappucinno's, I need one NOW, not in 40 years.

GET YOUR NERD MINDS OUT OF THE GUTTER! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24913637)

many uses? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24913639)

is one of those uses fucking me up the ass with a 14" dildo?

Re:many uses? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24913663)

It's open source, so yes.

Re:many uses? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24913709)

It's open source, so yes.

Metaphorically, he'd get it from a proprietry vendor if he didn't want it.

Now isn't the time for metaphores. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24913847)

Some of us are trying to keep dry [goldencondor.net] , let alone buy a robot.

Re:Now isn't the time for metaphores. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24913967)

nice one

open source hardware (1)

networkzombie (921324) | more than 5 years ago | (#24913655)

I was hoping the hardware schematics used no brainer diagrams like Ikea furniture. I wanted to build one today.

Essential Data (1)

Smivs (1197859) | more than 5 years ago | (#24913659)

I am fully functional and programmed in multiple techniques....

beer (1)

Iowan41 (1139959) | more than 5 years ago | (#24913661)

Now there's a useful robot. Hope it isn't AI and up and joins the WCTU! ;-)

fag robots? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24913687)

open source can't help but to spread it's homosexuality everywhere.

01101000 01101101 01101101 (5, Funny)

thermian (1267986) | more than 5 years ago | (#24913729)

01001001 00100000 01100110 01101111 01110010 00100000 01101111 01101110 01100101 00100000 01110111 01100101 01101100 01100011 01101111 01101101 01100101 00100000 01101111 01110101 01110010 00100000 01101111 01110000 01100101 01101110 00100000 01110011 01101111 01110101 01110010 01100011 01100101 00100000 01110010 01101111 01100010 01101111 01110100 00100000 01101111 01110110 01100101 01110010 01101100 01101111 01110010 01100100 01110011

Re:01101000 01101101 01101101 (1)

blake182 (619410) | more than 5 years ago | (#24914069)

decode_string = "01001001 00100000 01100110 01101111 01110010 00100000 01101111 01101110 01100101 00100000 01110111 01100101 01101100 01100011 01101111 01101101 01100101 00100000 01101111 01110101 01110010 00100000 01101111 01110000 01100101 01101110 00100000 01110011 01101111 01110101 01110010 01100011 01100101 00100000 01110010 01101111 01100010 01101111 01110100 00100000 01101111 01110110 01100101 01110010 01101100 01101111 01110010 01100100 01110011"
final_string = ""

composed_char = 0

for the_char in decode_string:
    if the_char != ' ':
        composed_char <<= 1
        composed_char |= ord(the_char) - ord('0')
    else:
        if composed_char:
            final_string += chr(composed_char)
            composed_char = 0

print final_string

Re:01101000 01101101 01101101 (1)

arielCo (995647) | more than 5 years ago | (#24914257)

perl -naF -e 'map { print pack "B8",$_ } @F'
There, broke it for you.

Re:01101000 01101101 01101101 (1)

JesseMcDonald (536341) | more than 5 years ago | (#24914325)

decode_string = "01001001 00100000 01100110 01101111 01110010 00100000 01101111 01101110 01100101 00100000 01110111 01100101 01101100 01100011 01101111 01101101 01100101 00100000 01101111 01110101 01110010 00100000 01101111 01110000 01100101 01101110 00100000 01110011 01101111 01110101 01110010 01100011 01100101 00100000 01110010 01101111 01100010 01101111 01110100 00100000 01101111 01110110 01100101 01110010 01101100 01101111 01110010 01100100 01110011"

bytes = decode_string.scan(/[01]+/).map { |bits| bits.to_i(2) }
puts bytes.pack('C*')

In Python... (2, Insightful)

maxume (22995) | more than 5 years ago | (#24914479)

decode_string = "01001001 00100000 01100110 01101111 01110010 00100000 01101111 01101110 01100101 00100000 01110111 01100101 01101100 01100011 01101111 01101101 01100101 00100000 01101111 01110101 01110010 00100000 01101111 01110000 01100101 01101110 00100000 01110011 01101111 01110101 01110010 01100011 01100101 00100000 01110010 01101111 01100010 01101111 01110100 00100000 01101111 01110110 01100101 01110010 01101100 01101111 01110010 01100100 01110011"

print ''.join(chr(int(b, 2)) for b in decode_string.split())

Re:01101000 01101101 01101101 (1)

l00sr (266426) | more than 5 years ago | (#24914883)

Whoa, take it easy there, Tolstoy! I think you meant...

perl -e 'print pack "B*", $_ for @ARGV' 01001001 00100000 01100110 01101111 01110010 00100000 01101111 01101110 01100101 00100000 01110111 01100101 01101100 01100011 01101111 01101101 01100101 00100000 01101111 01110101 01110010 00100000 01101111 01110000 01100101 01101110 00100000 01110011 01101111 01110101 01110010 01100011 01100101 00100000 01110010 01101111 01100010 01101111 01110100 00100000 01101111 01110110 01100101 01110010 01101100 01101111 01110010 01100100 01110011

Re:01101000 01101101 01101101 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24914181)

01001001 00100000 01110100 01101111 00100000 01010111 01100101 01101100 01100011 01101111 01101101 01100101 00100000 01101111 01110101 01110010 00100000 01010010 01101111 01100010 01101111 01110100 00100000 01001111 01110110 01100101 01110010 01101100 01101111 01110010 01100100 01110011 00101100 00100000 01110011 01110000 01100101 01100011 01101001 01100001 01101100 01101100 01111001 00100000 01110100 01101000 01101111 01110011 01100101 00100000 01110111 01101001 01110100 01101000 00100000 01110100 01101000 01100101 00100000 01100001 01100010 01101001 01101100 01101001 01110100 01111001 00100000 01110100 01101111 00100000 01101101 01101111 01110101 01101110 01110100 00100000 01101100 01100001 01110011 01100101 01110010 01110011 00100000 01101111 01101110 00100000 01100001 00100000 01110011 01101000 01100001 01110010 01101011 01110011 00100000 01101000 01100101 01100001 01100100 00101110 00101110 00101110 00101110 00001010 00001010 01000101 01101110 01100100 00100000 01101111 01100110 00100000 01001100 01101001 01101110 01100101

Re:01101000 01101101 01101101 (1)

martinw89 (1229324) | more than 5 years ago | (#24914777)

I was about ready to vent at someone who used that meme in this story, but yours made me smile. Thanks!

hmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24914793)

"I for one welcome our open source robot overlords"

Re:01101000 01101101 01101101 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24914891)


#include <stdio.h>
#include <stdlib.h>

int main(argc,args)
char** args;
{
    fflush(stdout);
    unsigned char c,**s;
    int i;
    c=0; i=0;
    for(s=args+1;*s;s++) {
        printf("Decoding argument no. %d: ",++i);
        unsigned char *t;
        for(t=*s;*t;t++) {
            if(*t!=' ') { c<<=1; c|=*t-'0';
            } else { if(c)putc(c,stdout); c=0; }
        }
        if(c)putc(c,stdout);
        putc('\n',stdout);
    }
    putc('\n',stdout);
}

Re:01101000 01101101 01101101 (1)

Staur (1358323) | more than 5 years ago | (#24916903)

And google just got 5000 hits on "binary to ascii".

A couple design suggestions from an old guy.... (5, Interesting)

BitterOldGUy (1330491) | more than 5 years ago | (#24913761)

It looks like a metallic, 2-year old child, and it has sensors in its hands, eyes and elsewhere that help it navigate its surroundings.

First of all, not that. It needs to look like a realistic bouncy 18 year old woman. It would also be nice if she/it could change too. That way I don't have to look at the same girl everyday. Change the size of the boobs, length of legs, hair color, race, etc...

Two, not beer. As I get older it's more like 12 year old Scotch or Bourbon on the rocks. So the robot needs to put ice in the glass and pour scotch over it. Martinis would be nice two.

Three, it needs to know the interaction of meds with alcohol and to warn me not to take my meds when I'm about to drink. Yes in that order because if I'm so old and decrepit that I need an assisted living robot, there's no fucking point in taking care of my health anyway.

To paraphrase ... (2, Funny)

erlehmann (1045500) | more than 5 years ago | (#24913817)

No glowing spine.
Less boobs than Tricia Helfer.
Lame.

Re:To paraphrase ... (1)

rossifer (581396) | more than 5 years ago | (#24916813)

Less boobs than Tricia Helfer.

Tricia Helfer has "less boobs" than Tricia Helfer. I just hate it when it's obvious.

Re:A couple design suggestions from an old guy.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24914083)

50/50 room temp water instead of ice with the Scotch. Drink Bourbon however you like, its probably better with numbed taste buds anyway.

Re:A couple design suggestions from an old guy.... (1)

mweather (1089505) | more than 5 years ago | (#24914455)

I take my scotch with a few drops of water. That's all you need to bring out the hidden flavors. Any more and you're just watering it down. Though if it's Johnny Walker, it probably helps to water it down.

Re:A couple design suggestions from an old guy.... (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 5 years ago | (#24914495)

If you take care of your health, you can drink more later.

Re:A couple design suggestions from an old guy.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24920437)

>Martinis would be nice two.
Looks as though you've already had a few of those.

Re:A couple design suggestions from an old guy.... (1)

Whispers_in_the_dark (560817) | more than 5 years ago | (#24921573)

Don't date robots (per the Space Pope).

Yuo fail 1t? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24913765)

Sure it fetches your beer (1)

Layth (1090489) | more than 5 years ago | (#24913779)

But can it roll you a joint?

Alcohol is good times, but at an old age I'm pretty sure marijuana becomes medicinal

Lame ... (1)

erlehmann (1045500) | more than 5 years ago | (#24913781)

Wake me up when they have a full-scale Tricia Helfer / Sarah Michelle Gellar bot. I assume attending hacker conferences would be kinda different then ...

Oh no! (2, Funny)

Layth (1090489) | more than 5 years ago | (#24915159)

Lucy Liu bot is stuck in an infinite loop, and fry's an idiot!

"You're cute!"
"No you're cute!"
"No, you're cute!"

Willow Garage progress (4, Informative)

Animats (122034) | more than 5 years ago | (#24913783)

Willow Garage has had a few projects. They did an autonomous model boat. They started on a driverless car, but never got very far in that direction. They showed the Stanford PR1 robot at RoboDevelopment two years ago, but their own second generation version is still at the parts-prototyping stage.

Anybots [anybots.com] is probably further along. Take a look at their pictures. I've seen that machine in operation. Balance is automatic, but manipulation and movement are teleoperated.

Re:Willow Garage progress (1)

JuzzFunky (796384) | more than 5 years ago | (#24916661)

I love the idea of open source hardware!! Does anyone know of other open source hardware projects that are worth looking into?

Beware, the robot is teleoperated (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24913803)

The robot is being teleoperated in those videos.

I'm a roboticist; no robot, at the moment, is capable of performing those tasks autonomously.

Re:Beware, the robot is teleoperated (2, Interesting)

bloody_liberal (1002785) | more than 5 years ago | (#24914095)

The robot is being teleoperated in those videos.

Certainly that's the case. I think the intention of this project is to create a platform for future research.

By making it open-source (and hopefully affordable), it has better chances of being accepted as a standard benchmark for the next generation of embodied AI (which, as its name implies, isn't here yet). Think about it as the physics engine, not the game itself...

Having said that, let's embark on the more interesting discussion of what are the prospects of a robot successfully roaming around our homes. I claim that cleaning is achievable with present-day technology, but more lively interaction with us (humans) around is still far away...

Your thoughts, AC?

Re:Beware, the robot is teleoperated (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24916387)

I agree. Simple activities such as cleaning/mowing your lawn are surely within reach of technology and the main problem is the economy of the product (it has to be cheap).

We will have to wait for "more lively interaction" with humans, but in the very immediate future we will have "deadly" interaction (as it turns out, it is much easier to create a robot to kill people than to help them). For now, all drones have a human in the loop, but that is more for ethical/political reasons than a limitation of the technology.

Re:Beware, the robot is teleoperated [video] (2, Informative)

legutierr (1199887) | more than 5 years ago | (#24914787)

http://personalrobotics.stanford.edu/ [stanford.edu] OK, so it's not autonomous, but it's cool as hell nonetheless.

Re:Beware, the robot is teleoperated (2, Informative)

RossumsChild (941873) | more than 5 years ago | (#24916335)

Two thoughts.

1) Just because a video displays something beyond the perceived state of the art doesn't mean it isn't real. I know plenty of people that couldn't fathom the BigDog videos the first time they saw them.

I've worked in the personal robotics industry as well, and I agree with you: much of that footage must be teleoperated. Some of the tasks (feeding someone, selecting a beer from the fridge) might be autonomous behaviours but the overall combination is unlikely--it would be equivalent to someone breaking the sound barrier before the advent of the jet engine.

Still, just because you work in the industry and it doesn't seem possible doesn't mean you shouldn't CYA with some pretty serious qualifiers.

2) Please, please, please stop spreading the use of the word Roboticist. People who work with electronics aren't Electronicists. People who fix cars aren't Mechanicists. The guys behind the Manhattan Project weren't Atomicists. Call yourself a robotics engineer. If that's too many syllables for you call yourself a robot designer. If you can't be bothered to say five syllables. . .try swallowing chunks of your pride until you can. Computer scientists and Software Engineers do it every day. Hell, Electrical Engineers have seven to spit out and they still manage.

"Roboticist" just sounds like a term a 2nd grader would come up with while writing a short story for a sci-fi competition.

Re:Beware, the robot is teleoperated (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24920845)

Physicist? Chemist? The -ist suffix is valid. I'm pretty sure Asimov used "Roboticist" in his books, and he was hardly a 2nd grader at the time.

Re:Beware, the robot is teleoperated (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24918985)

Toyota's Partner Robot project seems to have done some of that autonomously (?)

Depressed robot (1)

suck_burners_rice (1258684) | more than 5 years ago | (#24913887)

I think what the world really needs is a super duper depressed humanoid robot. And I think his name should be Marvin.

Better idea (1)

asCii88 (1017788) | more than 5 years ago | (#24913895)

Not only population is growing old, also chinese are being born ala Fibonacci.
Wisely taking advantage of the chinese's body contexture, we could just harmlessly squeeze them into a robot.
Now, that's a humanoid.

Re:Better idea (1)

stranger_to_himself (1132241) | more than 5 years ago | (#24914021)

The Chinese are getting old too. And because of some stupid social engineering experiment they don't have a younger generation coming through. In a few years they are going to be in more trouble than anyone because of this.

Re:Better idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24915055)

Not really. They will just have to clean their own toilets and change their own diapers. When they get really old (like 75+) then the slightly less old (those around ~55-60) can make extra cash caring for the really old ones.

They could have warehouses filled with bunkbeds all stacked with the really old ones while the less old shuffle around changing their bed pans and getting them their medicine. Eventually all the oldies will die off and the problem will be solved.

Not saying that a solution like that would fly in Japan, but I am sure that in China it would be readily accepted and enforced by the gov't.

Finally! (1)

Vertana (1094987) | more than 5 years ago | (#24913953)

No more trips to the bathroom! No more trips to the fridge! I can now die comfortably from my bed or chair with no worries and rest assured that after I'm dead... my wife can still get her beer from the fridge thanks to a 'bot. Thanks :)

Obligatory Robot Chicken quote (0, Offtopic)

blake182 (619410) | more than 5 years ago | (#24914107)

"Can you f*** it?"

You know you thought the same thing. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24914237)

I, for one, am waiting for my sexy pleasure-bot.

C3PO?! (2, Insightful)

greymond (539980) | more than 5 years ago | (#24914255)

"They're not C3PO at this stage of their development..."

Who cares about that stupid bot, give me an R2 unit that can get up stairs and I'll be super happy.

Re:C3PO?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24921191)

R2 units might be able to climb stairs slowly (I'm not big on their hypothetical capabilities), but we do know that they have jets. Here's a jet-jumping robot in action [youtube.com]

Cool tech; but damn creepy looking.. (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 5 years ago | (#24914373)

Take a look [flickr.com] and imagine the following delivered in an even, calm, ever so slightly lisping child's voice: "Dear, dear user, I want to help you, when you are old and frail. Do not fear, I am programmed to assist you."

Re:Cool tech; but damn creepy looking.. (2, Insightful)

Ignis Flatus (689403) | more than 5 years ago | (#24914607)

the irony is, it is the very fact that you are trying to make it more humanoid that makes it creepy. hell, people get creeped out by other humans that seem just a little bit odd. why anyone would think this is a good idea puzzles me. i think assistive robotics would get better acceptance if they'd avoid the 'can't sleep, clown will eat me' factor.

Re:Cool tech; but damn creepy looking.. (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 5 years ago | (#24914647)

"We're from the uncanny valley and we're here to help."

Re:Cool tech; but damn creepy looking.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24916911)

if it looks humanoid at least you won't lacerate yourself if you come into contact with it...that and a non-skin robot would be more like a walking skeleton

Re:Cool tech; but damn creepy looking.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24914985)

yeah, the whole robot child idea needs to go. I think most people would be more likely to trust a robot that looks like a robot, not like a retarded skeletal 6-year old.

hmm (0, Offtopic)

amnezick (1253408) | more than 5 years ago | (#24914641)

Can it tell you "goatse.us" takes you to "http://www.google.ca" (at least in firefox [minefield 3.1b2 to be more precise])

on: so .. after all .. we are slowly moving towards "I, robot".
What if a malfunction doesn't remind Jack to take his vital heart medicine? Will the 'bot go to jail? Or to the [specially built for this purpose] 'bot compacter maybe? What if the 'bot compacter is controlled by another 'bot and it lets it get away? And then these "escaped" 'bots gather in secret meetings and plan to take over the cruel world that blames them for a line of code they did not ask for to be put in them? And what if I just STFU and go to bed before I turn this into a nightmare? Thought so..

At the risk of getting modded troll... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24915241)

I would like to submit that there are at least a few *ahem* household tasks that I deem quite critical that this robot is, shall we say, ill equipped to perform.

An interview link about willow garage (3, Informative)

kesuki (321456) | more than 5 years ago | (#24915377)

http://getrobo.typepad.com/getrobo/2008/08/interviewing-br.html [typepad.com]

in case it gets /.ed full text below.

"Interviewing Brian Gerkey at Willow Garage

I normally write about robots in Japan on this blog but today I am going to write about a robot that is being developed in the U.S. This is because I had the chance to interview Brian P. Gerkey, Research Scientist at Willow Garage, for the Japanese GetRobo Blog, and I felt it important for me to report this in English too at this time of era.

Willow Garage is a privately-funded research lab in California which is developing a hardware and software platform for Personal Robots - robots that do tasks for humans in everyday lives. The company is unique in that it has enough resources to "indefinitely" maintain a lab of 60 researchers without making any profit. The goal of the company is to make a positive and big impact in the robotics community by fully utilizing the open source development process.

The hardware platform is called PR2 and the software team at Willow Garage is developing the Robot Operating System (ROS) for PR2, a modular software system designed to facilitate code reuse throughout the robotics community. Brian is on the team developing ROS (led by Morgan Quigley at Stanford University) and is also the lead in developing all the applications that sit on top of ROS. Brian is well-known as the founder of The Player Project which he will explain about during the interview.

The following is an edited version of the interview with Brian (photographed below).

Gerkey_2 GetRobo: How did you get to join Willow Garage?

Brian: I was at SRI doing various kinds of robotics research. I had been there for 2 and a half years and was perfectly happy and wasn't particularly looking for another opportunity. But Eric Berger at Willow Garage whom I knew from Stanford contacted me and asked whether I was interested in joining. I was a bit wary at first since it is an unusual place. And I took a little bit of convincing to be sure.

GetRobo: What were you wary about?

Brian: One aspect of it is that I wanted to understand what the motivations were in particular of Scott and Steve, meaning that they're running the organization so I wanted to understand what their motivations were in what they were doing. Because I'm used to places like universities where the motivation is to do science, and to do research you have to go out and get contracts to support it. Then there are places like SRI where you do science but the goal there is to get clients. And in a fully industrial setting the goal is to get clients by selling products or services. Willow Garage doesn't fit into any of those categories, so I just wanted to understand why it was that they were doing what they were doing. And eventually they came to convince me that the idea is to take this long runway approach in developing technologies by putting significant resources into a focused topic in a way that allows you to spend years working on it to get to a point where business opportunities present themselves. So we are neither living off day-to-day contract income as like a place like SRI would nor are we trying desperately to get a marketable product out the door in order to satisfy our venture capital investors like a normal startup would operate.

GetRobo: What is your role at Willow Garage?

Brian: My role is software lead for the PR2. Morgan at Stanford is the lead on ROS which is the underlying infrastructure that we are building on, and I'm the lead here in developing all the applications that sit on the top of ROS. And that involves everything from designing the architecture of the software that we are building to the determination of the development policy since we have a lot of people writing the software. We have things like testing infrastructure and coding guidelines - not all of it are my favorite things to do, but important things for a professional software development process to get going.

GetRobo: Can you explain a little about your Player Project?

Brian: Sure. By way of history, when I was in graduate school we had a variety of robots in the lab and you need some software to control them. We were interested in the artificial intelligence aspect of the robot, in other words building the autonomy into the robot. But that requires handling a bunch of low level details. With a robot you have to talk over the serial port to the laser, you have to talk over to the USB port to the robot, and you have to get the data in and out and these things are tedious to deal with but they have to be done.

Now the robot that we bought from a company that sells research robots came with some proprietary software that allowed us to control them. But that proprietary software had some problems. The biggest problem was that it was proprietary. When we had a problem we couldn't't do anything about it. I can look at it and see that it's not doing the right thing and if I look at the code I can fix it, but they won't give me the code so I can't. That was really impeding our research.

So we started from scratch and wrote Player which is basically a hardware abstraction layer for robots. It does the same job for a robot that your operating system does for your computer. It hides the details of how things are subtly different so you can plug in whatever mouse or whatever monitor you want. So we took that idea to robotics and said we have different kinds of robots, we have 2 wheels and we have 4 wheels and there are those that have legs, but in the end what they do is move around on the ground. So we can control them by saying here's how fast to go forward, or here's how fast to turn, that's the mission. If you create that abstraction layer then suddenly you start to be able to ignore those low level details. And then the code you write becomes portable over robots because you programmed it against this abstraction layer and it will work on other robots that present the same abstraction. And we did the same thing for sensors. So the cameras and lasers are slightly different but hide that behind this well-defined interface and then you get portable code.

So one part of it is the abstraction layer, the other part is the library of drivers. Very much like your OS has drivers for all these different components that you can plug in, so does Player. Player has drivers to support pretty much every piece of robot hardware out there so that's really a demonstration of the success of the open software movement.

We got this working for ourselves and the first thing we did in the beginning of 2001 was to put it out on the web, on SourceForge. We put it out there and much to our surprise we got users from other universities. One of the first contributors was a robotics group at the university of Massachusetts at Amherst. They picked it up and said hey, it satisfies the need that we have but we have a slightly different robot so we'll write a driver for our robot. And now it supported two types of robots, and then it just took off from there. There was this time when before I would make a release of Player I would actually sit in my lab and test everything. But now, I've probably never seen 80-90% of the hardware. I don't even know what they look like. And that's because the drivers have been written by people around the world that have access to systems that I don't. All these contributions flow into this system and benefit everybody.

GetRobo: Why are you building ROS given that Player is already there?

Brian: PR2 introduces some new constraints that we didn't have when we built Player. One of them is real-time constraint. To safely control the arms of the robot we actually need a real-time system in there. That's a whole computing realm in itself with particular requirements. I wouldn't say that we couldn't fit that into Player, but it wasn't a natural fit. ROS is designed explicitly to allow some parts of the system to work in real-time and some parts not in real-time.

Another aspect of it is that when we built Player, we designed it to support small mobile robots that basically have a fixed configuration of sensors. If you want to know how to interpret the laser data, you can ask the robot, 'hey where is your laser?' Oh, my laser is here. That's fine till the laser is attached to the hand which is constantly moving through space. Then having the system set up where you periodically ask 'hey where are you' doesn't make sense anymore. You need to have the concept of changing coordinate frames built into the system. You want every sensor to report to you 'here's my data and here's the frame that it's in' because now we have a robot that has sensors all over the body. In the case of PR2, the forearms have cameras in them. So as the arms move through space you always need to know where that camera is. And knowing where that camera is a combination of knowing where the elbow is and where the shoulder is where the spine is AND where the robot is in the world. So that's one of the things we built in, the ability to talk about coordinate frames and coordinate transforms in a very natural way.

A third aspect is that Player is a client-server architecture. So there's a privileged server that has all these drivers in it and the user writes client programs to talk to that server. That's a perfectly good model and it's an easy model to implement, giving the user a fairly easy job to write the client code. But you do end up with this asymmetry, where clients are not the same as drivers. So for example, clients can't produce data that can be consumed by other clients. So if you have multiple clients and you want them to talk to each other, it's difficult. ROS is a completely peer-to-peer distributed system. Each module is the same as each other module and they can all produce and consume data. But importantly Player already has this extensive library of drivers for all these hardware pieces and algorithms, so we are pulling these into ROS.

GetRobo: And all the development is done open source?

Brian: Yes, it's open now through SourceForge. And we wanted to make a strong statement that we're doing this open source. We are really committed to open source development . We are actually developing all code out of repositories at SourceForge. For the core of ROS, there is a handful of contributors. To the application stack, right now we have about 15 interns during the summer, grad students from some of the best schools in the country here. They're producing code at an amazing rate. So counting them, we got in the order of 30-40 people. We have not had an official release, so there will come a point probably not too long after the end of the summer, where we look back and see what was accomplished over the summer and sort of look at what the interns have done and find a point where we will make an official release of ROS with some parts of the application stack that are ready to go.

The PR2 hardware release was originally planned in December of this year, but due to manufacturing delays, it will be more like first quarter of 2009.

GetRobo: From the software side, what do you need to accomplish by that date?

Brian: In principle it's kind of a moving target, because the robot is a research platform, and it's not a consumer product. We don't have a list of guaranteed capabilities that we need to work on. On the other hand we are doing our very best to get as much functionality in there that work as we can. From object recognition to stereo computation on the sensing side. Over at the control side, path planning for the base moving around the building, motion planning for the arms so that they don't run into the table, grasp planning so that they know how to pick things up. And we're trying to take the best existing solutions for each of those problems and ship the robots out with an instance of each of those solutions. And we want to make sure that what we put out there works.

I want to make sure that whatever we put out there is solid and well-scoped. I don't want to over-claim what it can do. We're not trying to solve general motion planning, we're not trying to solve general object recognition, that would be folly. We want to ship these modules and they do something and they always do it right but they're open. So if you can make it better, you can come in and change them. Or if you don't like it, the whole system is open so you can take that part out and put in a different part.

We do have a set of demos that we plan that we hope that the robot can do out of the box. So things like basic navigation around the environment so that it doesn't run into things and basic motion planning with the arms, basic identifying which is looking at an object and picking it out from sitting on the table and picking it up and moving it somewhere. So the idea is that it should have some basic mobile manipulation capabilities so that the researcher who's interested in object recognition doesn't have to touch the arm part in order to make the object recognizer better. The arm part is not to say that it can be improved but good enough.

GetRobo: Is developing ROS different in terms of technical aspects compared to Player?

Brian: In that respect there are a lot of similarities, what I would say is that we're aiming for a higher degree of professionalism in ROS code than we looked for in Player code. I don't want to degrade Player because it works perfectly well and I am still working on it. But we are trying to be a little more professional about the software development model with ROS. With ROS, we are trying to build a system that we are completely comfortable basing a company off. We want to make this an underlying infrastructure that a new company can rely on to build up its own intellectual property in the market. And that requires a certain degree of unit testing, code reviews and quality assurance process that I never put it into place for Player because I didn't need to.

GetRobo: Japan has developed something called RT-Middleware. Does it compete with ROS?

Brian: It's been a while since I looked at RT-Middleware. I've read papers about it but I don't have the details in hand to compare them. To my understanding ROS and RT-Middleware operate at the same level. I believe they would compete if you want to put it like that.

The thing is, there's space for many different systems like this. So I think Player is the de facto standard in the mobile robot community but there are many other systems that do the same thing but with a different focus. And RT-Middleware to my understanding is more focused on the real-time aspects of the middleware. So there will never be just one system.

GetRobo: What do you think about standards? Do you want ROS to become a 'standard?'

Brian: There was an effort for standards in the past. There was an organization called the Robotics Engineering Task Force modeled after the Internet Engineering Task Force. I participated in these meetings and we met for a couple of years and tried to come up with standards for things like how do you talk to a laser, how do you talk to a camera. And it was very very difficult to get an agreement on anything of substance because you have people that have a 4 core Pentium machine on their desks and then you have the people who have a 8 bit microcontroller. Both of them want to use cameras, and you can't meaningfully develop a standard that allows them to share code.

I think it's probably still too early in robotics to come up with a standard. I don't think we have enough deployed systems that do real work to have a meaningful standard. Most of the complex robots we have are in research labs. A research lab is the first place we throw away a standard. They're building the next thing. So in robotics labs, a standard will be of not much use. They are much more useful when you get to the commercialization side to build interoperable piece. And at that point we may want to talk about standards and I think it's still a little early.

Right now I'm much more interested in getting a large user community and large developer community. I'm less interested in whether it's blessed as a standard by a standard's body."

Re:An interview link about willow garage (1)

Animats (122034) | more than 5 years ago | (#24916337)

The company is unique in that it has enough resources to "indefinitely" maintain a lab of 60 researchers without making any profit.

Now that's promising. The big lesson of the DARPA Grand Challenge is that mobile robotics takes about 10x the resources that typical academic groups had previously been applying to the problem, and with sufficient resources, the problems start to yield. Previous automatic driving efforts had been a professor and a few grad students. Once the efforts were scaled up to NASCAR team size, things started to work.

Android (1)

AP31R0N (723649) | more than 5 years ago | (#24918503)

Humanoid + robot = android.

(Or to be precise, man shaped)

A humanoid robot and its many uses. . . (1)

MagusSlurpy (592575) | more than 5 years ago | (#24918567)

Am I really the only person for whom the first thought was "Sexbot?"

Go stand by the stairs... (1)

bill_kress (99356) | more than 5 years ago | (#24920835)

Every article I read these days seems like a joke.

Aren't old people supposed to be terrified of robots? Now the robots are bringing them beer!

Don't trust the pusher robot!

http://lazur.com/the-terrible-secret-of-space [lazur.com]

Check for New Comments
Slashdot Account

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
Create a Slashdot Account

Loading...