It is interesting that this robot uses the Kinect camera system rather than the complex sensors used in the past. It seems that as we continuously develop vision processing that it becomes more useful. It is also often less expensive. Sometimes it is very inexpensive. I have an older BlackBerry Curve. It uses a trackball. I have replaced the trackball. It cost about $2.50. Newer models use a low resolution camera in place of the trackball. It only has to sense the direction of movement, not any other details. So, it works fine and is longer lived than the trackball. It is also simpler to build and probably cheaper to install. Any software cost is amortized over all the devices sold, so that is near zero. This is the same with the robot.
I have seen the robots with multiple laser sensors and sonar or radar. These were fantastically expensive and still not as good as a human operator. Humans use vision. Perhaps the MIT researchers are on to something here.
naperlou, I was also interested to see the Kinect motion sensing camera/system used in aiding with 3D mapmaking. To me, when I read this it was one of those "of course" moments. The team also used laser scanners in a previous rev of this project.
TJ, I agree with you about the unexpected uses of technology innovations. In the case of the Kinect camera/sensor system for this robot app, note that the team also implemented their approach with the Kinect system in a robotic wheelchair and a portable sensor suit, in addition to the PR2 platform.
What I'm getting from your recent spate of apps stories, Ann, is that robotics apps are extending their arms, so to speak, well beyond the straight industrial arena in which I already assumed they were in heavy use. But there seem to be numerous medical, mil, and other apps of which I'd been unaware. Very interesting.
Thanks, Alex. Yes, I was intrigued to discover that robots are all over the place: they're not just for industry anymore, although that's their largest area of concentration. They are in medicine and healthcare, outer space, used by the military in the air and on the ground, and are learning to do all kinds of new things like navigate autonomously in a novel environment, fly in formation in swarms, build structures and even play in concert:
I've been hearing a lot about the Kinect motion system in simulation and other types of 3D apps as well. It seems like another one of those instances where consumer technology is influencing the development of commercial/business applications, which is interesting.
This is interesting TJ, the ethics question came to me also, although I was thinking more during war time. I think we have all seen videos of enemy soldiers trying to surrender to drones - before they get blown up.
The influx of robots in war raises a unique moral question about surrendering to a mechanical entity that a human is monitoring.
Chuck, that video went viral in about a week after it was posted. Although I think much of that is due to the cute and/or novelty factor, I also think much of the engineering appeal will be wondering how they are synchronized in yet another form of swarming behavior.
For industrial control applications, or even a simple assembly line, that machine can go almost 24/7 without a break. But what happens when the task is a little more complex? That’s where the “smart” machine would come in. The smart machine is one that has some simple (or complex in some cases) processing capability to be able to adapt to changing conditions. Such machines are suited for a host of applications, including automotive, aerospace, defense, medical, computers and electronics, telecommunications, consumer goods, and so on. This discussion will examine what’s possible with smart machines, and what tradeoffs need to be made to implement such a solution.