Robot Learns To Clean Whiteboard, Suck Up To Teacher

Watch out, "A" students. Not only are robots becoming teachers, they are also learning to take your place as the most desirable students. A team of researchers from Italy and Japan, lead by Dr. Petar Kormushev, has taught a Japanese humanoid robot how to clean a whiteboard. The approach that the team developed is called "upper-body kinesthetic teaching", and can be applied to a wide variety of vertical surface related tasks, such as window cleaning, wall painting, wallpaper fitting, drawing on a wall, etc.

The most interesting thing about this demonstration is that the robot learns to perform the task by example; the researcher demonstrates the technique using an eraser held by the robot.


(Robot learns to clean whiteboard)

The present approach allows a free-standing, self-balancing humanoid robot to acquire new motor skills by kinesthetic teaching. The method controls simultaneously the upper and lower body of the robot with different control strategies. Imitation learning is used for training the upper body via kinesthetic teaching, while at the same time ankle/hip reaction motion patterns are used for keeping the balance of the robot. During demonstration, a force/torque sensor is used to record the exerted forces, and during reproduction, a hybrid position/force controller is used to reproduce the learned trajectories in terms of positions and forces to the end effector.

We present an integrated approach allowing a free-standing humanoid robot to acquire new motor skills by kinesthetic teaching. The proposed method controls simultaneously the upper and lower body of the robot with different control strategies. Imitation learning is used for training the upper body of the humanoid robot via kinesthetic teaching, while at the same time Reaction Null Space method is used for keeping the balance of the robot. During demonstration, a force/torque sensor is used to record the exerted forces, and during reproduction, we use a hybrid position/force controller to apply the learned trajectories in terms of positions and forces to the end effector. The proposed method is tested on a 25-DOF Fujitsu HOAP-2 humanoid robot with a surface cleaning task.

Robot fanciers will recognize the HOAP-2 robot, a very limber little robot indeed; see also HOAP-2 Robot Masters Sumo And Linux. RoboShiko!.

The idea of robots that learn by example is well-known to science fiction fans. Anthony Boucher's robot bartender from his 1943 short story Q.U.R. also learns by human example.

The robotic research described above was conducted as a part of an Italian-Japanese collaboration between the Italian Institute of Technology and Tokyo City University. This research will be presented at the International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) in May 2011 in Shanghai, China. I believe the same team was able to teach a robot to flip a pancake (see video).

Via RLS Laboratory; thanks to the anonymous reader who contributed this item.

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