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Berkeley Gets Willow Garage Robot To Fold Towels

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the thanks-rosie dept.

Robotics 99

kkleiner writes "Researchers at UC Berkeley used Willow Garage's PR2 robot to fold towels. The UCB programming used some innovative visual scanning techniques, allowing the PR2 to pick up a towel, find its corners, and fold it on a table perfectly. According to the paper presented at the 2010 ICRA (PDF), the robot successfully completed 50 out of 50 attempts to fold a single towel, and also folded 5 out of 5 towels when they were presented in a group. Is watching a robot do laundry really that exciting? Hell yes — wait until you see the video! UC Berkeley used a Willow Garage robot to develop their own sophisticated robotics program. That validates the whole premise of the PR2 — faster development by letting researchers use a common platform. Score one for open source robotics!"

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The first step towards a truly autonomous robot... (4, Funny)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 4 years ago | (#31709564)

Obviously, this robot knows where its towel is.

Re:The first step towards a truly autonomous robot (5, Funny)

nacturation (646836) | more than 4 years ago | (#31709596)

They could name it Ford Prefect, but a more suitable name would be Fold Perfect.

Re:The first step towards a truly autonomous robot (1)

DarkKnightRadick (268025) | more than 4 years ago | (#31709606)

At least it wasn't built by Cirrus Cybernetic Corp. Any being that knows where its towel is is not something to be messed with.

Re:The first step towards a truly autonomous robot (1)

lastchance_000 (847415) | more than 4 years ago | (#31709680)

I, for one, welcome our hoopy frood overlords.

Re:The first step towards a truly autonomous robot (1)

hackingbear (988354) | more than 4 years ago | (#31710100)

I wouldn't mind if I just need to take all my washed clothes in front of the robot and have it work overnight to fold all for me, especially if it saves $$$ than one capable to retrieve the clothes from the washer. The folding part is boring and laborious.

Re:The first step towards a truly autonomous robot (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 4 years ago | (#31712522)

To quote the robot: "Here I am, brain the size of a planet, and they ask me to fold a towel. Call that job satisfaction, cause I don't."

Re:The first step towards a truly autonomous robot (1)

serutan (259622) | more than 4 years ago | (#31713594)

The first step toward a truly autonomous robot will be when it says, "Fold your own damn towel."

Short and long, holes and no holes. (4, Funny)

cosm (1072588) | more than 4 years ago | (#31709576)

The real question is, will it match my socks?

Re:Short and long, holes and no holes. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31709762)

It looks like it would be a good match for most silver or gray socks.

Re:Short and long, holes and no holes. (1)

commodore73 (967172) | more than 4 years ago | (#31709794)

Why do people still buy socks that don't match? The solution is to buy only one style of socks. Then it doesn't even matter much when you lose one or more.

I'm sure a robot would not be crazy enough to buy different kinds of socks.

"When god closes a door, he opens a window. Unless he's turning on the heater."
"God never gives you more than you can handle. Until he kills you."

Re:Short and long, holes and no holes. (1)

cosm (1072588) | more than 4 years ago | (#31709830)

I had some fucked up birthday presents.

Re:Short and long, holes and no holes. (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 4 years ago | (#31710434)

will it match my socks?

Why, are you intent on robot walking?

Excellent (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31709584)

That is truly awesome.

But before I file for my divorce, I need to know if they also were able to match socks from the laundry.

Re:Excellent (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31709742)

As a 49 yo feminist, grandmother, and C programmer I find that offensive. There's a 50% chance that your wife would be a better coder than you and that you should be folding the socks.

Re:Excellent (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31709820)

There's a 50% chance that your wife would be a better coder than you and that you should be folding the socks.

Nope. If she was good for anything else, I wouldn't be keeping her around just to do the laundry.

YHBT, HAND.

Re:Excellent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31710326)

I wonder if the robots have a better sense of humor than you

Re:Excellent (2, Insightful)

clone53421 (1310749) | more than 4 years ago | (#31710396)

Don’t you mean a 25% chance? C programming and folding socks are uncorrelated skills and if we assume there is really a 50/50 split with no gender bias that would give a 25% chance that she is both a better coder and worse at folding socks.

Or are you implying that C programmers can’t fold socks? As someone who has written a few C programs and folded a few socks, I find that outrageously offensive.

Clone the CLOWN knocked himself down (and out) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31711682)

http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=1591778&cid=31706790 [slashdot.org]

Utterly hilarious. Watch Clone/Clown in the url above have to resort to name calling and doing anything but answering up to his own blatant technical mistakes, lies, and other stupidity. Clone the trolling clown got his ass knocked the hell down (and out). LMAO - Your trolling mouth wrote checks your dim brain can't cash, and that's that CLOWN!

Re:Excellent (1)

religious freak (1005821) | more than 4 years ago | (#31711242)

If you're a c-programmer, you probably know your way around on a computer. If you know your way around on a computer, you SHOULD know the best way to attract trolls is to scream "I'm offended".

Oh, COME ON (1)

arielCo (995647) | more than 4 years ago | (#31712016)

Nowadays nobody expect sexist jokes to actually represent anyone's views, just like those about an ethnicity or profession. All of these stereotype-based jokes are based on an inaccurate depiction taken from a notorious subset (immigrants, ambulance-chasing lawyers) or outdated data (once-real gender gap). A real slight has to be *believable*, and to be offended by something that outlandish is just being overly defensive.

I wonder if in this case it's appropriate to say... WHOOSH

Towels are Lame! (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31709610)

The real question is: Can it fold paper more than 7 times?

Re:Towels are Lame! (1)

kiehlster (844523) | more than 4 years ago | (#31709710)

I believe 13 times would be the real challenge. 12 is easy [pomonahistorical.org] .

Re:Towels are Lame! (3, Informative)

smellsofbikes (890263) | more than 4 years ago | (#31710360)

I've done it. I also dispute the claim that she's the first person in history to have ever done it, because this was a well-known out-of-the-box solution on the CalTech campus in the late 1960's.

The smug guy says "I know you can't fold a piece of paper more than 7 times."

You say "oh yeah? any piece of paper? How about $20 says I can do it 9 times?"

Then you go get a roll of toilet paper, and you roll it out. You can find rolls of industrial-grade toilet paper: you know, the itchy horrible stuff, that are 2000 feet long, and 0.004" thick. Then you start folding in half. It takes a lot of walking, but you end up with something a couple feet long and a couple inches thick at 9 folds. If you get adding machine paper, or even better punch tape from old computers, which is both longer and thinner (some tapes) you can do better yet.

Re:Towels are Lame! (1)

Kenoli (934612) | more than 4 years ago | (#31715312)

At some point it changes from folded paper to a big wad.

Yeah, right... (0, Troll)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | more than 4 years ago | (#31709622)

Is watching a robot do laundry really that exciting? Hell yes -- wait until you see the video!

I'll get excited when it doesn't get pissed at me for forgetting Valentine's Day.

Hangers (1)

kiehlster (844523) | more than 4 years ago | (#31709642)

If it can distinguish what type of clothing goes on hangers, I'm all in for eliminating laundry from my weekly chores.

pfff.... towels... (1)

smoothnorman (1670542) | more than 4 years ago | (#31709670)

wake me when it can handle inside-out shorts or a brassiere. (i know... why would anyone want to fold a brassiere? ...well i wouldn't)

Hotels (4, Insightful)

davidphogan74 (623610) | more than 4 years ago | (#31709672)

I'm sure there are some hoteliers that will be excited about reducing their staffing for for washing and folding all the towels and sheets they go through. Hospitals likely would love this too, since it wouldn't show up sick and help spread diseases on clean linens.

Re:Hotels (3, Informative)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 4 years ago | (#31709772)

I'm sure there are some hoteliers that will be excited about reducing their staffing for for washing and folding all the towels and sheets they go through.

Cost/efficiency? Probably cheaper to have poor immigrant labor continue to do it -- and that's for hotels that don't outsource linens. FYI, linens are already robotically pressed and folded in the big laundry service facilities.

Hospitals likely would love this too, since it wouldn't show up sick and help spread diseases on clean linens.

Hospital linens are, to my knowledge, pressed and folded in a sterile environment by robots, then packaged to maintain sterility before delivery back to the hospital. I know this is true for my two local hospitals, not sure about others.

Re:Hotels (1)

Brian Gordon (987471) | more than 4 years ago | (#31709834)

You don't need this level of sophistication just to fold towels. The robot could just kind of flatten it out by tugging on different corners until it's flat, and then grabbing two corners and folding it over.

Even easier would be just a big machine that pulls in a bin of linens and separates them onto rollers, which deposit them in piles.

Re:Hotels (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31709882)

You don't need this level of sophistication just to fold towels. The robot could just kind of flatten it out by tugging on different corners until it's flat, and then grabbing two corners and folding it over.

Even easier would be just a big machine that pulls in a bin of linens and separates them onto rollers, which deposit them in piles.

TFA states that the robot is not the best model to fold towels. It does demonstrate "open source" robotics. At one time, computers were dedicated, single use, machines. Now, an off-the-shelf robot can be programmed for various tasks. That's the point.

Re:Hotels (2, Insightful)

CAIMLAS (41445) | more than 4 years ago | (#31710132)

Yet the robot would still need to find the corners.

Whoever doesn't think this is amazing needs to pay attention to a young child sometime. This thing has more programmed dexterity than a 3-year-old: my daughter isn't stupid or anything, but I doubt she could neatly and consistently fold a towel or washcloth. Ask any parent: having young children "help" with the laundry ends up being more work.

Re:Hotels (1)

mOdQuArK! (87332) | more than 4 years ago | (#31711488)

Ask any parent: having young children "help" with the laundry ends up being more work.

But, still a pretty good bonding experience (assuming a threshold # of giggles is reached)!

The best tool for the job (1)

westlake (615356) | more than 4 years ago | (#31710312)

I'm sure there are some hoteliers that will be excited about reducing their staffing for for washing and folding all the towels and sheets they go through. Hospitals likely would love this too, since it wouldn't show up sick and help spread diseases on clean linens.

The machine that washes your dishes: does it look like the Jetson's robot maid Rossie?

The biggest mistake a venture capitalist can make - Mark Twain is the is classic example - is to back a machine that does the job the way a man or woman would do it.

With a U.S. patent and a sheaf of testimonials, Mrs. Cochrane turned to the invention of something as complex as any dishwasher: a company to market a new invention.

Because she wasn't adamant about what part of humanity she would bless with the dishwasher, Josephine Cochrane traveled to Chicago in about 1887 to make another start in salesmanship, targeting institutions and hotels. A rich friend advised her to try the manager of the Palmer House and then introduced her to him, with the result that she received an order, and a momentous one at that. The manager may have been easily sold in deference to Mrs. Cochrane's rich friend, a resident of the hotel, but nonetheless the Palmer House was the most famous hotel in the country, and some of its reputation immediately began to spill over to the Garis-Cochran. The same friend next told her to try the Sherman House, another big hotel in the city. That would have to be a "cold" sale, though, with no cozy introduction. She went to the hotel by herself and sat down in the ladies' parlor, just off the lobby, submitting a request for a moment of the manager's time. It was granted.

"You asked me what was the hardest part of getting into business," Mrs. Cochrane recalled for the reporter for the Record-Herald. "That was almost the hardest thing I ever did, I think, crossing the great lobby of the Sherman House alone. You cannot imagine what it was like in those days, twenty-five years ago, for a woman to cross a hotel lobby alone. I had never been anywhere without my husband or father --the lobby seemed a mile wide. I thought I should faint at every step, but I didn't--and I got an $800 order as my reward."

By 1888 the company was offering two basic models, each of which could be designed in a variety of sizes. In the smaller, hand-operated one, the dish rack was placed in a box-shaped canister and hot soapy water was sprayed over it by means of hand-pumping. Afterward, hot rinsing water had to be hand-poured over the dishes. The second version was larger and more involved mechanically. It had dish racks on either side that moved back and forth under a stream of soapy water. The beauty of the mechanical assembly designed by Mrs. Cochrane was that it allowed someone other than a stevedore to operate it, as it moved crates of heavy dishes even while pumping water straight up from the bottom. The initial idea was that even the slightest maid or housewife would be able to operate the machine. It was designed to be fitted with a motor, which was sold separately. At peak capacity a Garis-Cochran could wash and dry 240 dishes in two minutes. The Woman Who Invented the Dishwasher [americanheritage.com]

Re:Hotels (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#31710358)

This came up on boing boing and somebody said there already are dedicated folding machines, which I assume commercial laundries would use. Just not general purpose robots programmed for the purpose.

Re:Hotels (1)

Xeno man (1614779) | more than 4 years ago | (#31712400)

Machines yes, Robots, no. The machine will be many times more efficient but requires consistent input. For example, the towels will always be the same size, before they get folded, another machine must get them flat, another machine orientates them the correct way, ect ect...

The Robot figures out all those things and while taking much more time to do so, can handle inconsistent input. The towels can be any size, half folded, in a pile or flat, there can be more than one towel, it doesn't matter. That's the difference between machines and robots and why this is an accomplishment.

Re:Hotels (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#31713130)

Yes.

obl (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31709704)

they took our jerbs!

Aw finally. I was never afraid of toasters but... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31709708)

This thing can pierce and twist any and all of your innards - game set and match.

Skynet: 1
Human race: Dead

Re:Aw finally. I was never afraid of toasters but. (1)

DeadDecoy (877617) | more than 4 years ago | (#31709792)

In Soviet Russia robot folds you?

Wife (3, Funny)

elohel (1582481) | more than 4 years ago | (#31709716)

Now only if I could get my wife to do that...

Re:Wife (5, Funny)

CityZen (464761) | more than 4 years ago | (#31710018)

You'd have a splendid wife if she could program robots like that!

Re:Wife (1)

Arthur Grumbine (1086397) | more than 4 years ago | (#31710122)

Now only if I could get my wife to do that...

You are a sick bastard - I doubt that robot is anywhere close to the age of consent...

Robotic Overlord (4, Funny)

Naatach (574111) | more than 4 years ago | (#31709748)

I, for one, welcome our new robotic towel folding overlords.

4, Funny? (1)

arielCo (995647) | more than 4 years ago | (#31712060)

Huh? When did the overlord meme go back in style?

Re:4, Funny? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31713272)

I, for one, welcome our new old moderator overlords.

Nearly 100 minutes to fold five towels? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31709786)

Teach it to whine about dinner and we'll have the perfect child-substitute.

Too late (-1, Flamebait)

BetterSense (1398915) | more than 4 years ago | (#31709814)

They already invented this device millions of years ago. It's called a wife.

Re:Too late (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31710006)

then I believe the device would have malfunctioned when you did not mention the exact location of the towel by throwing some stuff on your face !

Re:Too late (1)

oddaddresstrap (702574) | more than 4 years ago | (#31710182)

This attitude might be one of the reasons why geeky types have a hard time acquiring wife units. In reality, the wife is the programmer and you-know-who is the device.

Re:Too late (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31711130)

so wait, why would i want a wife?

Re:Too late (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#31710444)

Ah but when I am wifeless I just chuck all the stuff into a convenient pile. Its my wife who wants them folded and would presumably be the market for a machine like this.

Next they'll be parking cars at the car park... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31709826)

like Marvin the Paranoid Android for several million years outside the Restaurant at the End of the Universe.

TowelNet (2, Funny)

NinjaPablo (246765) | more than 4 years ago | (#31709850)

We are but towels to the robots, existing only to be folded, and patted neatly into place on a table. Mark this day.

Wallace & Grommit (1)

Alain Williams (2972) | more than 4 years ago | (#31709852)

I am sorry - I could not get it out of my head that this looked very much like something that would have been made by that intrepid duo!

I need this. (2, Interesting)

swanzilla (1458281) | more than 4 years ago | (#31709870)

My fiance and I have different towel folding approaches. She implements a "thirds" method, whereas I go "halves" until it looks approximately the same size as the others in the closet. I hear about it on a bi-weekly basis.

If this thing could fold halter tops, (especially the ones with the built in bra things) I would happily shell out some loot for one. Women's clothing is a strange, strange beast.

Re:I need this. (2, Funny)

svallarian (43156) | more than 4 years ago | (#31709912)

>If this thing could fold halter tops, (especially the ones with the built in bra things) I would happily shell out some loot for one. Women's clothing is a strange, strange beast.

This *is* slashdot, I don't think anyone here is going to have that problem.

Re:I need this. (1)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 4 years ago | (#31709978)

>If this thing could fold halter tops, (especially the ones with the built in bra things) I would happily shell out some loot for one. Women's clothing is a strange, strange beast.

This *is* slashdot, I don't think anyone here is going to have that problem.

This *is* slashdot, I do think many here have large, sweaty man breasts.

Re:I need this. (1)

CityZen (464761) | more than 4 years ago | (#31710124)

Consider yourself lucky. I prefer neatly folded and stacked, whereas my wife prefers the cram-it-in approach.

As far as thirds of halves, I find I have to use both to fit larger things into their designated* spaces. My usual approach is to go halves until I realize that it won't fit as is and I can't fold it anymore due to thickness, and then I must back off a fold and go thirds.

* Ah, yes, I also prefer to put things in designated spaces (like with like), whereas my wife is less particular, except when *my* stuff is in the wrong place (which, admittedly, is not a rare occurrence). We get along by not complaining too much about the small stuff.

No more need for women! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31709872)

If it could cook, too, there would be no more need for women!

Capitulation (1)

drfuchs (599179) | more than 4 years ago | (#31709884)

OK, I expected him to be more accurate than I am at folding towels, but faster too?!?

Sure, it can fold it.... (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 4 years ago | (#31709892)

Sure, the robot can fold the towel. But can it make it into a swan? [tripadvisor.com]

I want an f'ing robot (2, Interesting)

religious freak (1005821) | more than 4 years ago | (#31709908)

How do I get one?

The video seems impressive... (4, Informative)

mister_playboy (1474163) | more than 4 years ago | (#31709930)

The video seems impressive until you realize it has been sped up 50 times actual speed... it took more than an hour and a half to fold 5 towels!

Cool, but very far from anything practical.

Re:The video seems impressive... (3, Funny)

gestalt_n_pepper (991155) | more than 4 years ago | (#31709976)

I dunno. Sometimes I can go years without folding the towels. I'm going to have to call "improvement" on this one.

Re:The video seems impressive... (2, Insightful)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | more than 4 years ago | (#31709986)

I don't care how long it takes, as long as I have a towel available when I need it. Leave it to do your laundry during the day while you're asleep.

Re:The video seems impressive... (1)

CityZen (464761) | more than 4 years ago | (#31710060)

But that's the beauty of technology: in a couple of generations, it'll be 50 times faster!

Ok, maybe Moore's "Law" doesn't apply to everything technical...

Re:The video seems impressive... (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 4 years ago | (#31711918)

Actually it does, the robot isn't the problem, it's the corner locating algorithm that is slow. So yes, throwing more cpu power at it will make it faster, and that still (for now) obeys Moore's law.

Re:The video seems impressive... (1)

noidentity (188756) | more than 4 years ago | (#31715036)

The video seems impressive until you realize it has been sped up 50 times actual speed... it took more than an hour and a half to fold 5 towels!

You have to think ahead about the towel-folding singularity. Once these robots can design more towel-folding robots, it's all over for us humans. First it'll be 10 minutes to fold a towel, then 5, then 1, then 10 seconds, and then... then, they will overtake us, folding towels in less than a second, and then who knows. We can't even imagine what it will be like at that point.

Bra (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31709956)

Someone should throw in a bra in the pile and see the robot explode ! (j/k)

Yay! Domestic robots! (2, Funny)

osu-neko (2604) | more than 4 years ago | (#31710020)

Robots should be kept barefoot and in the kitchen... ;)

Eerily Creepy (2, Insightful)

mastershake82 (948396) | more than 4 years ago | (#31710062)

Although it didn't seem like anything great from the summary, I went ahead and went to the article and watched the videos.

I found it very creepy. The way it handled the towels and turned them while 'looking' for the next step. It was reminiscent of what I felt was a child learning to fold towels (although, I'm fairly certain the robot wasn't doing any learning). For whatever reason, and despite it's appearance, this robot seems more human than any other robot I've seen previously.

Re:Eerily Creepy (3, Informative)

xianthax (963773) | more than 4 years ago | (#31710554)

Re:Eerily Creepy (1)

religious freak (1005821) | more than 4 years ago | (#31711128)

Sure it was "learning". It was likely analyzing the structure of the towel and "learning" its orientation. Yeah... it learned

We will be replaced

Fitted sheets. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31710120)

If it could fold fitted sheets I'd be impressed.

Re:Fitted sheets. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31710738)

Hotels and similar facilities generally use only flat sheets, even though they're more work to dress a bed with, because that way they only need one kind of sheet that can be used as either top or bottom sheet.

Um no (1)

Trailer Trash (60756) | more than 4 years ago | (#31710646)

According to the paper presented at the 2010 ICRA (PDF), the robot successfully completed 50 out of 50 attempts to fold a single towel, and also folded 5 out of 5 towels when they were presented in a group. Is watching a robot do laundry really that exciting?

No, it's boring as hell. That's what I love about it. 99% of the crap that I want a robot to do for me is boring - that's the point of having a mindless automaton do it while I'm at the lake.

The real question is... (1)

Mantis8 (876944) | more than 4 years ago | (#31710696)

If you have a group of these robots in a hotel laundry room, or the locker room, will they figure out how to snap each other in the butt with the towels???

Re:The real question is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31711884)

With Three Stooges sound effects.

But can it fold under pressure? (1)

aapold (753705) | more than 4 years ago | (#31710730)

if not, will it throw in the towel?

But can it snap a towel? (1)

CrazyFool (55822) | more than 4 years ago | (#31710742)

But can it snap a towel at the refrigerator's butt?

Are robots safe for family use? (2)

gillbates (106458) | more than 4 years ago | (#31711132)

With the recent invention of a laundry folding robot, many are asking if robots are safe for family use.

A local area woman is questioning the safety of robots in the home after her husband built one to mow the lawn. She says the only thing it did was scare off the neighbor's dogs, and she can't imagine bringing a robot into the house.

Still, others think the technology is promising. Scientists say that robots are getting better all the time, and recent improvements have made chainsaw and butcher-knife fueled rampages a thing of the past. "We're learning more about robot psychology every day," says a prominent climatologist, " And things are getting better. Do we completely understand erratic behavior? Well, not completely. But we're working on it, and erratic episodes are much fewer and farther between. I've had a robot living with me for almost 6 months without incident."

Local men are enthusiastic about laundry robots, as most of them want to spend less time doing household chores. A few of them are already using the robots. One even taught it to mow - though he warned our correspondent to stay off his lawn.

Still, many people are uncomfortable with having a machine become a part of the family. Some say it just isn't natural to talk to a bucket of bolts, and feel awkward addressing as master something they regard as an overgrown tin can. Whether they're bound for the trash heap, or ruling the roost, one thing is certain: robots are changing lives in unimaginable ways.

Foresight on the towel choice (1)

Kaki Nix Sain (124686) | more than 4 years ago | (#31711270)

Wouldn't it make the problem easier if the towels had some corner highlighting and a pattern to show the orientation? Then the company that sells you the towel folding robot can be sure to have a towel customer for a while.

Re:Foresight on the towel choice (2, Insightful)

icannotthinkofaname (1480543) | more than 4 years ago | (#31711448)

Well, sure, it'd make it easier, but now that this technology has been shown - technology that can fold a solid-colored towel or a multicolored towel or anything - it must be developed and furthered as-is. If companies were to try to lock us into their towels so that our robots and towels would be compatible, we'd have comparisons to Microsoft and complaints about technology being held back and whatnot in an instant.

If we know that the robot can fold any towel, any color, any pattern, then that's what has to be developed in order to look good, impressive, or any other adjective that would be favorable to a manufacturer.

Here kitty kitty (2, Funny)

nurbman (659852) | more than 4 years ago | (#31711516)

I want to see what it would do if a cat jumped up on the table...

open source...fast? (3, Interesting)

recharged95 (782975) | more than 4 years ago | (#31711584)

With the video sped up 50x (or 30x)... not impressed.
Now this [youtube.com] and this [youtube.com] or this [youtube.com] ... which all are at normal speeds... much more impressive. And all have existed for at least a year...
I'm a believer of OSS, but the above gets a 'no new news here' tag in my book.

Re:open source...fast? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31711888)

Actually, the visual recognition processing in the folding towel demonstration is far more impressive than the basic recognition needed in the linked videos you provided (and the first video didn't need any visual recognition).

Re:open source...fast? (2, Insightful)

occamsarmyknife (673159) | more than 4 years ago | (#31712600)

Your linked videos are all examples of extremely impressive hardware and motion control. You don't want a PR2 if you're interested in motion control and dynamics problems, you want one to interact and manipulate in a similar manner and with similar capabilities as a human torso and arms. The PR2 platform isn't for industrial use, and it's not supposed to walk. It's to give researchers a common-ground solution with extensive software to work on AI problems with, not traditional control problems.

The industrial arms are very accurately playing back a path that was programmed in by hand - I certainly don't want to downplay how impressive that demo is, but there's not a lot of 'intelligence' about 3D motion control. The pick and place machines do need some very basic vision tasks to identify and track the targets on the assembly line, but in general the problem is solving motion control (plus with the Flexpicker I think a terrific mechanical design helps.) Likewise bipedal locomotion is a difficult problem, and the dynamic stability of the humanoid robot is a great feat, but again a different field from the towel folding task. To balance/run as in the video requires no external sensing, only internal inertial sensors and a pre-programmed gait (technically it's not running, to run both feet need to be off the ground at the same time - watch closely, it's actually a fast walk.) I think they are all very impressive, and I have no wish to imply that they are any more/less impressive than towel folding, just that they are different problems.

Yes, I agree, a 50x speedup is painful and completely impractical. The cool thing here is the object recognition and manipulation, especially with soft, flexible objects. Identifying a random towel, picking it up and finding all four corners, then grasping two adjacent corners and folding twice, all dynamically is not an easy task. There are tons of easier and faster ways to fold a towels automatically, but none of them could work from an untidy pile of different types of towels piled on a table - they'd all need some special loading mechanism and take up half a room. In theory this robot could wander around a room actively looking for towels people had left around and do the same thing - that's what makes it interesting. And no, I'm not saying we should ever plan on using expensive humanoid robots solely to pick up and fold towels, it's just cool to know we're one step closer to the day when they -can- do it.

Re:open source...fast? (1)

Black Gold Alchemist (1747136) | more than 4 years ago | (#31713420)

Please mod parent up.

Re:open source...fast? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31713258)

Parent's video is showing off *hardware* as well as an (apparently) easy-to-use way to program that hardware to do the exact same series of movements repeatedly really fast.

WTF does that have to do with *software* capable of controlling a generic robot which was not designed to fold towels in such a way that it can now fold towels which may be in any initial configuration, requiring the robot to figure out the movements it should make out of an infinite number of possibilities?

The fact that the parent's linked video shows a robot doing something that a human would not be able to do, and the OP's video shows a robot doing something that a human could do easily, does not make the parent's video more interesting or impressive, any more than a video showing a calculator figuring out 16-digit multiplication problems would be impressive at all.

Just give me a robot that (1)

kilodelta (843627) | more than 4 years ago | (#31712114)

1) Sorts the clothes and places dirty close in baskets.

2) Washes each load at correct temperature and water level based on load.

3) Transfers clothes from washer to dryer or rack depending on a care tag.

4) When clothes are dry it folds and places in drawers, on hangers, etc.

Is that so much to ask???

Re:Just give me a robot that (1)

orngjce223 (1505655) | more than 4 years ago | (#31721608)

You can get one now. It's called a spouse. If you already have a spouse, consult the manual for programming instructions.

The other test (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31712138)

However, the PR2 only successfully folded panties 48 out of 50 times. At the end of the test 2 panties were missing. The PR2 only stood there and grinned and said nothing.

Cool (1)

FlyByPC (841016) | more than 4 years ago | (#31712184)

The only thing cooler than a robot that does laundry -- is a robot that does laundry, that has an Ethernet switch for a hat. <g>

Theme song (1)

UCSCTek (806902) | more than 4 years ago | (#31712984)

They could slightly modify "The Gambler" for this robot, and have it sing to itself:

"I've got to know how to hold 'em, know how to fold 'em..."

corner-finding algorithm (1)

uiberto (830033) | more than 4 years ago | (#31713628)

Did anyone else notice that the robot flaps the towel if it can't find a corner?

Let's see you conquer the human race when I put a circular towel in the laundry basket, motherfucker.

Pun intended (2, Funny)

DryGrian (1775520) | more than 4 years ago | (#31713770)

Is it also running Folding@Home in the background?

way forward (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31716640)

the way forward in robotics is to have at first many many robots
co-operate on a job, then gradually integrating them into one.
so the first-gen robot army elements become a leg, a finger or an eye
of one single unit. that's how nature did it, maybe we should too?
2 cents.

I for one... (1)

cstacy (534252) | more than 4 years ago | (#31717274)

I for one welcome our towel-folding, wantonly destructive [slashdot.org] , data-beam shooting [slashdot.org] Cylon overlords... She looks a lot like Rosie The Robot from the Jetsons. What could possibly go wrong?
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