'MacGyver' Robot Can Use Found Objects to Solve Problems
Need to MacGyver your way out of a tough spot? Golem Krang, a robot designed by researchers at Georgia Tech, may soon be able to help. A Navy grant is funding work by researchers to create an algorithm that would give the robot the ability to use objects in its environment as tools to solve problems, such as the one pictured in a simulated scenario. (Source: Georgia Tech)
It's certainly hard to get your mind wrapped around the idea that an algorithm could drive a robot to figure out how pull that solider out from under the debris or throw a chair through a window to coordinate an escape from fire. That said, Design News' robotics coverage certainly shows we're making progress towards that goal. Great example of yet another instance where unleashing the creativity of the innovators is likely to result in some seriously extraordinary technology.
Beth, Agree. The world provides a wealth of inspiration to design cool and innovated autonomous robots from animals, to insects, now MacGyver. I wonder how MacGyer might feel that is job may be threaten by a robot? LOL
It strikes me that this is more a database application than an algorithm. Humans, after all, sort through millions of pieces of data to do the MacGyver thing. From our point of view the concepts:
- A window may be an exit.
- Glass is breakable
- You have to throw a weight to break a window.
- You can't lift more than 45 pounds.
- A chair weighs about 10 pounds.
Are distinct ideas from thousands that we piece together to figure out that we can throw a chair through a window to escape through it. The big problem here isn't going to be coming up with a clever process for figuring this stuff out. It is going to be putting together a massive database of simple common facts that can be quickly integrated into plans.
@SparkyWatt: I agree that this robot is going to have one big data problem on its hands to both amass and process all of the possible scenarios and data points in order to make any kind of informed decision about what solution to try or how exactly to go about fixing a problem. While I hate being negative about any kind of technology exploration, I'd say this is definitely a "work-in-progress."
This sounds ambitious to the point of being too far-fetched. I think sometimes these projects are meant to evaluate 'bleeding-edge' technologies, determine the short-comings, and make a wish-list of new technologies.
GlennA, I agree completely. Even the name "Golem" is a word that has negative connotations (e.g. dumb or helpless).
It's a nice idea, but I really would NOT like to see an autonomous robot until their cognitive ability is a LOT further along. And then I wouldn't like to see an autonomous robot because I don't know that I would trust it's motiviation (think Stuxnet).
GlennA, I have to agree. I didn't believe half of what McGyver did, so I find it even harder to believe a robot can do it. I'm also confused by the specs. The statement "ability to lift 100kg -- the combined weight of its two arms" is confusing. Does this mean the two arms together can lift 100kg and that they also happen to weigh 100kg? I'm familiar with the Schunk LWA 3 (the arms being used on this robot) and I know it can't lift that much (it's more like 6kg).
I think there's a lot of hand waving with the technical capabilites. It'll be interesting to see if they even come close to what's being touted. I suspect most of the work will be in software modelling of the environment and deducing what's relevant to accomplishing a certain task. That alone will consume all $900K. Hope to see great things come from this.
You're right about that, Nadine. The robot is a fascinating step forward, even if it requires mammoth tweaking. The ability of the robot to manipulate tools and the ability of the robot to "think" is quite something.
I sure hope its equipped with Intelligent Headlights. I wouldn't want it blinded by rain or snow as it searches for a "pipe" to lever a smoking HVAC unit off some poor soul. http://www.designnews.com/document.asp?doc_id=247143 All kidding aside, this sounds way, way out these. How is this thing supposed to know just how truly fragile humans are to avoid inadvertanyly killing the trapped guy with that "oh-so-handy-and available" pipe?
The difference will be that the robot won't be able to violate all kinds of physical laws and limitations. It will never connect a scuba tank to a garden hose to inflate an air matteres to bust open a hatchway. But a robot that was aware enough of it's surroundings to use a pipe as a lever to pry an object off of somebody would be quite an accomplishment. Of course, that would also be a big accomplishment for a whole lot of our population today. The advantages are clear but the level of creative thinking required is beyond most of our population, and probably beyond all programmers, so it will be amazing to see what gets developed.
The downside is that a robot that smart may want to replace us humans. That could be a problem.
It was always the cartoonish departures from real physical reality that bothered me. But my wife always watched it because of the guy's looks. Go figure.
Robots won't become an agressive threat until they become self-aware. Likewise, people unable to pay attention long enough to become self-aware are very easy to enslave. That is the reasoning behind the training of the current generation to not be able to focus attention for more than a second or two. They won't be able to discover that they are slaves. Think about that, and become uneasy!
Thanks, Watashi, that's funny. I also think there are some unwarranted, anthropomorphizing assumptions in the comments here about how much independence a machine can actually have. It's one thing to use an algorithm, perhaps as simple as a decision-tree type of analysis, for assessing simple physics (levers, e.g.), amounts of force required, etc. It's quite another to assume, or posit, that a machine can have a separate sense of self and self-awareness.
Watson did win against Ken Jenning, and the other champion whose name I can't remember. The game was fairly structured, but still required sifting through a lot of facts very quickly. But Watson was the size of a room, not a mobile robot.
The robot may be able to do more and better than the specific task that it's tooling was intended for, which could be very useful in an un-anticipated situation. BUT the creativity of the remote operator is what will be the really vital part. That is similar to the way a good engineer is able to use good engineering tools, but a poor engineer is only able to look at the tools. IT is all about creativity and insight, of course the more adaptive robot will wind up being much more useful.
Unfortunately the Macgyver guy used to routinely violate all kinds of physical realities. CReative? Certainly, but Correct? Very Seldom.
Good point, William. My colleague Beth pointed out potential drawbacks to this type of robot in a comment below. It definitely remains to be seen how this is executed to determine how successful and, as you pointed out, how creative a robot can be given various scenarios.
You're finding some old stories of mine, Cabe...I forgot about this one! I haven't seen that film, but it sounds like a good analogy. You've made me think I should do some research and see how far this project has come now.
It won't be too much longer and hardware design, as we used to know it, will be remembered alongside the slide rule and the Karnaugh map. You will need to move beyond those familiar bits and bytes into the new world of software centric design.
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