The Best Robot Videos of the Week: Tidying Up the Place

Every Friday, Future Tense rounds up the best robot videos of the week. Seen a great robot video? Tweet it to @FutureTenseNow, or email us.

This week, we see robots clean up, dig around, and build their own tools.

The Orderly Bot
From Cornell University comes a bot that can’t stand a mess. The bot uses algorithms to study objects and figure out the most appropriate way to put the room in order. It can understand, for example, that a shoe is more likely to go on the floor than on a table or in a refrigerator. A Microsoft Kinect camera surveys the room and matches the appearance of an object to a database to decide where and how it should be put away. The machine has a success rate of up to 98 percent with objects it already knows and about 80 percent with objects it’s not familiar with. That’s not good enough to prevent some broken dishes, but it’s an encouraging start.


The Scooper Bot
Growing up around dogs, I’d have given anything for a machine that could scoop up the yard. NASA’s Earth-based replica of the Mars-bound Curiosity rover looks like a promising step in that direction: The bot masterfully picks up a “specially prepared sample” of its own. Needless to say, it’s also an important step for space exploration, and it’s a fun look at what Curiosity will do when it touches down on the red planet. The rover can scoop up and analyze a sample of the ground and then clean itself up so it keeps working properly. Check out videos from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory  to see what else Curiosity is preparing to do when it gets rolling in August.

Via IEEE Spectrum.

The Builder Bot
Robots that need to perform a wide range of tasks typically come equipped with a bunch of tools. This bot, from ETH Zurich, just builds what it needs to get the job done. Using a hot glue gun as a 3-D printer, it builds a cup to move water from one container to the other in this video. It’s not exactly speedy—the whole process takes about an hour—and it’s not entirely autonomous at this point. The cup design was preprogrammed, though the team hopes to advance to the point where the bot can decide what tools it needs on its own.

Via PopSci.