Documenting the Coming Singularity

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Walk like a man - A Robot that Navigates Like a Person

Editor's note: What's new about this robot? In what way does it move about in its environment like a human? Other robots take pictures of their surroundings repeatedly to plan their way through, but this robot uses sophisticated algorithms that mimic the human visual system. A lot will be learned from this one and advances in autonomous robotics will come fast. You heard it here first!

Technology Review - June 30, 2009, by Anne-Marie Corley

A new robot navigates using humanlike visual processing and object detection.

Future vision: This robot navigates using input from two cameras that serve as "eyes" in a movable "head." Credit: Antonio Frisoli

European researchers have developed a robot capable of moving autonomously using humanlike visual processing. The robot is helping the researchers explore how the brain responds to its environment while the body is in motion. What they discover could lead to machines that are better able to navigate through cluttered environments.

Once the robot had been given the software, the researchers found that it did indeed move like a human. When moving slowly, it passed close to an obstacle, because it knew that it could recalculate its path without changing course too much. When moving more quickly toward the target, the robot gave obstacles a wider berth since it had less time to calculate a new trajectory.

The robot consists of a wheeled platform with a robotic "head" that uses two cameras to capture stereoscopic vision. The robot can turn its head and shift its gaze up and down or sideways to gauge its surroundings, and can quickly measure its own speed relative to its environment.

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