Developed at MIT, this robot is touted to adapt to people and places like no other robotic device:
Edsinger [MIT postdoc -ed] describes Domo as the “next generation” of earlier robots built at MIT–Kismet, which was designed to interact with humans, and Cog, which could learn to manipulate unknown objects. Domo incorporates elements of both of those robots.
“The real potential of robots in the future is going to be realized when they can do many types of manual tasks,” including those that require interaction with humans, Edsinger said.
There are now plenty of robots doing manual work on factory assembly lines, but those machines follow a script and can’t learn to adapt to new situations, as Domo can, said Rodney Brooks, director of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.
Domo’s visual system is attuned to unexpected motion, allowing it to focus on important stimuli within human environments. For example, locating human faces is critical for social interaction, and people are often in motion. When Domo spots motion that looks like a face, it locks its gaze onto it.
Edsinger recently demonstrated how Domo can interact with people to help them accomplish useful tasks.
Once he captures Domo’s gaze, they exchange greetings. “Hey, Domo,” Edsinger says, to which Domo responds, “Hey, Domo.” “Shelf, Domo,” says Edsinger, prompting the robot to find a shelf. Domo looks around until it spots a nearby table that looks promising. The robot reaches out its left hand to touch the shelf, much like a person groping for a light switch in the dark, to make sure the shelf is really there.
Once Domo has located the shelf, it reaches out its right hand towards Edsinger, who places a bag of coffee beans in the open hand. Domo wiggles them a little to get a feel for the object, then transfers the bag from its right hand to its left hand (nearest the shelf). Domo then reaches up and places the bag on the shelf.
Though it seems like a minor movement, wiggling the object is key to the robot’s ability to accurately place it on a shelf, Edsinger says. Domo is programmed to learn about the size of an object by focusing on the tip of the object, for example, the cap of a water bottle. When the robot wiggles the tip back and forth, it can figure out how big the bottle is and decide how to transfer it from hand to hand or to place it on a shelf…
For Domo or any robot to safely interact with humans, the robot has to be able to sense when a human is touching it. Domo has springs in its arms, hands and neck that can sense force and respond to it. If you grab its hand and push, the robot will move the way you want it to.
“By placing that spring in there, you get physical compliance that makes the whole body sort of springy, which makes it safer for human interaction,” Edsinger said. But if you apply too much force or move Domo’s arms in the wrong direction, it voices its displeasure by saying “ouch.”
MIT Press release: Assistive robot adapts to people, new places …