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Summon the Comfy Chairs!

Chester, illustration

Disney and CMU developed Chester, a story-telling robotic piece of furniture, to be friendly and inviting.

Credit: Disney Research

Researchers in Europe and the U.S. are developing a bevy of roboticized furniture they think will fill the gap in the market between simpler domestic robots such as iRobot's Roomba and the humanoid Pepper servant robot recently launched by Softbank.

For example, an expressive robot trash can developed by Stanford University's Wendy Ju and David Sirkin is designed to patrol fast-food restaurants for trash, approaching tables and wiggling to get patron's attention. A mobile robot named toybox, developed by Francesco Mondada at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, operates on a similar principle: it features expressive "eyes" that it uses to look at toys, then wiggles and flashes to prompt the child who has left it out to put the toy away.

Aaron Steinfeld and his colleagues at Carnegie Mellon University have developed a story-telling robotic chest of draws, dubbed Chester, in collaboration with Disney. One of Chester's drawers features an animated face that tells children stories, while the robot opens its other drawers at opportune moments to provide its audience with paintings and photographs. Other pieces of robotic furniture being developed by researchers include a robotic tool chest, also developed by Stanford's Ju, which may one day be able to anticipate what tool its owner needs and make it available.

From The Economist
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