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Herb: A Robot That Can ­nload a Dishwasher and (sometimes) Take Apart an Oreo


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HERB searches for Oreos.

The Home Exploring Robot Butler (HERB) can unload a dishwasher, disassemble an Oreo cookie (sometimes), and act in a play.

Credit: Carnegie Mellon University

In an interview, Carnegie Mellon University Personal Computer Lab director and professor Siddhartha Srinivasa discusses his work with the Home Exploring Robot Butler (HERB).

The robot has advanced manipulation skills that enable it to perform multiple functions, including unloading a dishwasher, disassembling an Oreo cookie, and acting in a play.

"[HERB] was designed and developed with the main goal of manipulating in cluttered and uncertain environments with and around people," Srinivasa notes. HERB was programmed to take the Oreo apart through the algorithmic crafting of a special Oreo cookie detector, and Srinivasa says the differing thicknesses of the cookies and cream have been problematic, with HERB only succeeding two times out of 10.

Meanwhile, Srinivasa says HERB's dramatic performance is rooted in the development of open source tools to enable easy robotic programming and control by anyone. "We needed a fast interface to create several motions of HERB that were realistic and close to what [the director] wanted," he says. "The goal was to develop building blocks to be able to give them tools and software packages that anyone could use."

Srinivasa predicts robots will eventually replace humans in difficult, menial, dull, and hazardous tasks.

From The Washington Post
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