The philosophy behind the approach

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.

“You can hand it an object it’s never seen before, and it can find the tip and start to control it,” Edsinger said.

The philosophy behind the team’s approach is that humans and robots can work together to accomplish tasks that neither could do all alone.

“If you can offload some parts of the process and let the robot handle the manual skills, that is a nice synergistic relationship,” Edsinger said. “The key is that it has to be more useful or valuable than the effort put into it.” |link|

“There’s no question,” said Sebastian Thrun, a professor of computer science at Stanford University who is developing a self-driving car. “It’s just a matter of time.” |link|

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