Many countries around the world are currently dealing with complex issues caused by an expanding aging population, prompting a growing number of technology companies to explore how robots may be able to assist in the home.
Focusing on robotics and A.I. research, California-based Toyota Research Institute (TRI) this week showed off a prototype robot capable of handling a number of tasks within the home.
The robot is powered by software that’s able to cope with the kind of complicated situations that can baffle so many other robots, specifically, their ability to deal competently with transparent and reflective objects and surfaces.
In the video above (note: the selfie references are a nod to National Selfie Day earlier this week), TRI shows its robot expertly wiping surfaces in a kitchen and other rooms. Whereas many similar robots still lack the skills to spot things like transparent drinking glasses and shiny toasters that might get in the way during such a task, Toyota’s robot is able to identify these objects and move them carefully out of the way using a gripper.
“Training robots to understand how to operate in home environments poses special challenges because of the diversity and complexity of our homes where small tasks can add up to big challenges,” Max Bajracharya, TRI’s vice president of robotics, said in a release about the institute’s latest work.
Bajracharya said his team was able to create a robot capable of safely handling traditionally hard-to-recognize objects by designing a system that enables the accurate perception of the 3D geometry of an entire scene and at the same time the precise detection of objects and surfaces within that scene.
He added that this combination allows researchers to use large amounts of synthetic data to train the system, which, according to Toyota, “alleviates the need for time consuming, expensive, or impractical data collection and labeling.”
While a surface-wiping robot is hardly going to solve the most pressing issues linked to an aging population, these incremental improvements in robot technology can pave the way for new, more ambitious projects that could one day contribute to society in a meaningful way. Indeed, TRI said its latest efforts expand the current knowledge base for technology related to home-based robots, enhancing their ability to operate efficiently in the home.
Although it may be a while before you see a robot as advanced as Toyota’s saunter into your home, a bunch of clever robotic devices are in fact already available to perform a range of household chores so that you don’t have to.