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Robot Carries Objects on Serving Trays: Robo-Butlers Around the Corner

by Paul Strauss
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After watching the Woody Allen classic, Sleeper for the 1000th time, I assumed that we’d all have cold, impersonal robot butlers in our homes by now. Well, it turns out that one of the main challenges for robo-butlers is their lack of ability to carry items on a tray without spilling them.

sleeper

The issue is that keeping a tray horizontal during movement will result in easy spills when moving quickly. Thankfully, the guys at Willow Garage are working on a solution.

pr2_balances_trays

By developing a set of balancing motions that minimize lateral force on the object, PhD student Tobias Kunz of Georgia Tech was able to get a PR2 robot to handle delicate objects on a tray, and glasses full of liquid without so much as a spill.

With a PR2 selling for $285,000 to $400,000, I’m still not sure we’ll have robot butlers serving us martinis any time soon, the same technique can be used to help industrial robots carrying delicate objects on trays, or open containers of liquids. If you happen to have a PR2 robot lying around, you can test out the movements on your ‘bot using the path trajectory files here.

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