Thursday, April 8, 2010

Mr. Roboto

This one is going to blow your mind. Its the robot we've all been waiting for! The innovating, amazing, spectacular...towel-folding robot. Towel folding is, I think we can all agree, not exactly a taxing enterprise on the brain. But, not being a robotics expert, I was not aware that it actually is taxing on artificial intelligence.

A research team out of UC Berkeley has developed software that allows a robot to look at a big, jumbled pile of various towels it had never seen before and then take those towels and fold them into neat stacks. The key to this is the "never seen before" part as robots usually need to have seen an object to recognize an object. Essentially, its all geometry, except that, in the case of cloth, you are dealing with a flexible material that, in the eyes of the robot, form multiple shapes depending on how it is held. The new software uses a grasp point detection algorithm to detect the corners of the cloth to help the robot fold it correctly. This is a method that serve as a platform for helping robots "understand" a variety of materials, rigid and flexible.

Here's the story:

(image from

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