Three years ago, a Silicon Valley robotics startup called Willow Garage shook things up by offering one of the first robots capable of a wide range of different functions rather than a single focused task.
The so-called PR2 could do anything from folding laundry to picking up something from the floor to delivering a beer, and it was instantly the darling of researchers and robotics fans. The only problem was that it cost $400,000.
Now, several ex-Willow Garage employees have spun off their own company, known as Unbounded Robotics, and their first product is a very PR2-like machine -- … Read more
In you-knew-that-would-happen news, an adult app store called MiKandi is building apps for Google Glass. A robot refills your beer glass when you're ready for another round. And "Arrested Development" is proving popular, especially with pirates. All that and more on this week's Crave extravanganza. … Read more
Yes, robots can actually carry out that order. Now, they can even anticipate where to pour your beverage of choice.
Cornell University's Personal Robotics Lab has trained a PR2 robot from Willow Garage to figure out where and when to pour beer, as well as perform other actions that require anticipation.
Armed with a Kinect 3D camera and a database of 3D videos, PR2 can analyze what it sees by breaking down activities into several steps. Then it anticipates what might happen next with objects it picks out in the scene. It can choose the most likely next step for activities like eating, drinking, cleaning, and putting things away. … Read more
In this week's Always On (Episode 7), host Molly Wood visits robotics research lab Willow Garage in Menlo Park, Calif., to see how its crafty $400,000 PR2 robot fares as a sushi waiter.
PR2 looks like a juiced-up version of Rosie the robotic maid from "The Jetsons." But even with its buff arms, this humanoid robot can set a table with surprising grace. It shows poise on camera too -- impressive considering that the footage below represents robot sushi waiter's first video appearance.
For those unfamiliar with the open-source robot, the PR2's array of … Read more
I have to put our Always On supervising producer, Eileen Rivera, on front street a little bit this week: that woman hates the Samsung Galaxy Beam. More accurately, she hates the cheeseball YouTube videos that promote the Beam's signature feature: its built-in pico projector. And I agree ... those ads are bad. Like, bad, bad.
But after spending some time playing with the Beam, I have to confess, I was kind of taken with its little parlor trick! I can't imagine using it often, unless it was for work, but it would certainly thrill the grandparents as a better … Read more
Everything cool in technology eventually becomes mundane. I think history shall record that robots, once the stuff of science fiction and fantasy, crossed this threshold when they began picking poop off the floor.
Ben Cohen and friends at the University of Pennsylvania's GRASP lab recently took the wraps off this awesome new technology, named POOP SCOOP (Perception of Offensive Products and Sensorized Control of Object Pickup). Hello, Ig Nobel prize. … Read more
Realizing too late the threat of its PR2 robots taking over the world, Willow Garage today began offering a less dangerous version with only one arm.
The PR2 SE can be yours for the low, low price of only $285,000. That's way down from $400,000 for a two-armed PR2, and a discount is even available to those who make significant contributions to the open-source Robot Operating System (ROS) community. Users can buy another arm later if they want.
Willow Garage says about two dozen PR2s, which went on sale last September, are being used by researchers around the world, and that PR2 SE will expand the community because it's more affordable. … Read more
It sounds rather grandiose, but the humanoid robot has made a real difference in the life of Evans, who suffered a brain stem stroke at age 40 that left him paralyzed and mute. Therapy has enabled him to move his head and a finger.
That allows him to use a computer and control PR2. The bot helped him scratch an itch for the first time in 10 years.
As the vid below shows, Evans prefers to shave himself with PR2 rather than have others do it. … Read more
Should celebrity chefs be worried? Willow Garage's PR2 robot is cooking up a storm, what with chocolate chip cookies at MIT and now Bavarian breakfasts in Germany.
Researchers at Technical University Munich recently paired PR2 with Rosie, a two-armed robot that has a Kinect 3D sensor like PR2. The robo-couple enacted a charming household scene of shopping for ingredients and cooking together.
In the vid below, the robots are seen preparing a Bavarian breakfast of Weisswurst sausages. PR2 retrieves objects from a shelf in a shopping simulation, then uses a bread slicer to cut up a baguette. It doesn't seem like PR2 uses the shopping goods when cooking, however.
Meanwhile, Rosie puts the Weisswurst in a pot, boils them, and places them on a plate for PR2 to serve with the bread. The demo, prepared by Munich-based CoTeSys (Cognition for Technical Systems), gets a round of applause by onlookers.
Recently, engineers at the University of Pennsylvania gave PR2 some literacy skills. As seen in the video below, it can roam the halls of campus reading out posters on doors and walls.
Menglong Zhu and colleagues at the university's GRASP robotics lab tinkered with a Kinect-equipped PR2 dubbed "Graspy" and taught it to recognize printed text on paper and signs as well as handwriting on whiteboard.
First, it locates text on a nearby surface (including the floor and labels on household products). Then it performs text recognition using Tesseract OCR software, and reads the words aloud.
Graspy can handle various fonts and text colors, but its reading isn't smooth or perfect, missing the digits "50" on one poster--perhaps because they were stylized.
The skill isn't earth-shattering, and indeed humanoid robots have been reading text and even musical scores for years. Still, it's cute to see Graspy exploring its new ability to read just like a child does. … Read more