Our dream of never leaving the couch again is inching closer to reality, thanks to the hard work of Cornell University scientists who have created a robot programmed to pour you a beer (albeit a bit messily).
Created in the university's Personal Robotics Lab, the PR2 helper-bot uses 3D Kinect sensors to first take in the scene and detect a person's movements. Then, an algorithm is used to decide what action, if any, needs to be taken next. In practice, this allows the unit to tackle all kinds of households chores, like simple clean-ups, opening the fridge, and yes, even pouring you a frosty Budweiser.
Its decision-making still isn't perfect; PR2's ability to make the correct choice degrades as time passes. (After one second, it took the correct course of action 82 percent of the time. After three seconds, 71 percent. After 10 seconds, 57 percent. Etc.)
As for what the future holds, its creators hope to imbue PR2 with the ability to learn as it goes, to better mimic the human mind's ability to sense patterns and anticipate what comes next. Like Rosie from the Jetsons.
"The future would be to figure out how the robot plans its action," says Ashutosh Saxena, a computer science professor at Cornell. "Right now we are almost hard-coding the responses, but there should be a way for the robot to learn how to respond."
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