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# Robots Learn to Pick Up Oddly-Shaped Objects

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Re: A Solution looking for a Problem
7/14/2014 11:50:48 AM
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Cabe I never would have thought of that, either. Once again, this solution to a design problem seems obvious in hindsight, but unless one was spending a lot of time contemplating how to use different shapes to grasp objects, it's unlikely the idea would occur.

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Re: A Solution looking for a Problem
5/16/2014 5:02:16 PM
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The robot design is ingenious, I would have never thought a deflating 'ball' would be a great mechanism to grasp objects.

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Re: A Solution looking for a Problem
6/4/2012 11:57:51 PM
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Agree....Most of the comments are based on environments where uniform parts are pre-aligned.  Many times that's fine, but what if electronic components, gears, etc. could be "loose" and gripped and oriented by more sophisticated robotics?  It could result in net savings.  Another application is when the component shapes or orientation are irregular and poorly defined- logs, chicken wings, gemstones, or debris on the seabed.

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Re: A Solution looking for a Problem
6/4/2012 4:16:06 PM
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Jack, that's a good point about the use case of slight changes in the expected location of the object to be picked up. The main advantage the researchers cited was in adapting to different shaped and oddly shaped objects and being able to pick them up without dropping them (or spilling water from them as shown in the photo).

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Re: A Solution looking for a Problem
6/3/2012 5:16:18 PM
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Yes, Ann, the adaptation to different shapes is the key component of the algorithm.  I see two practical applications for something like that.  First, it gives the robot a much higher margin of error when moving a product.  If the product is not quite in the right orientation or has moved somewhat from where it it expected, the gripper can still get it (within reason).  The second application is if the product the robot is trying to grab gets redesigned.  A minor modification to it physical shape may not require as drastic of changes to the processes if the robot is still able to adapt to it.

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Re: Odd Shaped Objects
5/31/2012 12:06:10 PM
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Thanks, Al. I enjoy reporting on R&D developments as well as already baked products and technologies. The R&D can stimulate all kinds of ideas.

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Odd Shaped Objects
5/30/2012 3:34:38 PM
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Ann, Good story.  These kinds of developments are important to continuing innovation.  Nothing like new ideas to keep things moving ahead. Maybe this can spur specific application developments.  Thanks.

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Re: A Solution looking for a Problem
5/30/2012 1:07:53 PM
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jmiller, you can see and hear about the inner workings of the gripper's ball--what makes it a jamming gripper--in the video linked to in the article.
The fact that the robot has to follow the same repetitive steps is secondary here: it's the fact that it may have to adjust those repetitive steps to different shaped objects, as stated in the article. That's what the algorithm teaches it to adapt to.

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Re: A Solution looking for a Problem
5/30/2012 1:06:00 PM
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This gripper--which is not the main subject of the DN article--is not designed to pick and place small chips or other tiny objects on a high-speed line. The universal jamming gripper is a very different gripper designed to quickly grasp and release, or throw, a wide variety of object shapes. According to a FAQ
http://creativemachines.cornell.edu/jamming_faq_2
for an earlier IEEE article about this gripper by its inventors, not the algorithm which my article focused on, specific applications include "military robotics and improvised explosive device (IED) defeat missions; consumer and service robotics in unstructured environments like the home; and industrial and manufacturing robotics able to perform of a wider variety of gripping tasks than currently possible." According to that article, universal grippers can be used for sorting and throwing objects. One immediate use that comes to mind is end-of-line palletizing for non-fragile objects. A different (non-jamming) approach to universal grippers is shown here:
http://blog.robotiq.com/bid/29474/Universal-Gripper-Tooling-for-Pre-Engineered-Robotic-Cells

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Hand
5/30/2012 12:26:57 PM

The human hand seems to be the model to mimic, but we still use tools - specialty grippers if you will. A totally universal gripper isn't there in nature either.

Logic is key. We can manipulate something a stick if needed, but of course much easier with the hand.

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