11 Videos of Willow Garage’s PR2 Robots Goofing Off


When confronted with a new social scene, even robots need ice breakers. Willow Garage recently gave away 11 of its PR2 robots to research groups around the world as part of its 4th Milestone in development. But what good is a robot if all you do with it is research? Scott Hasan, Willow Garage’s founder, recently challenged the PR2 recipients to come up with quick and fun demonstrations. A sort of ‘get to know you’ presentation. The results were pretty hilarious, and the top three demos won small cash prizes ($5000 for first place!) We’ve got all eleven entries for the “PR2 Quick Start Video Contest” for you below. Music, art, housework – this robot does it all.

I’ll go ahead and start with my favorite – the third prize winner ($2000). The University of Pennsylvania got their PR2 to play the keyboard with one hand and the drum with the other. Using a midi file the bot was then able to play recognizable versions of several classic pop songs. Pretty cool, PR2. And I fear fem-bots love drummers.

Pieter Abbeel’s lab at the University of Berkeley already demonstrated the PR2’s knack for housework by getting the robot to fold towels perfectly. For the video contest, however, they upgraded the towel folding to include input via Twitter. That’s right, they taught the PR2 to tweet, and used human feedback to help the robot make decisions. They also taught the robot how to fold socks. It can invert a sock that’s inside out and even pair them. Sock folding earned the team top prize in the contest, along with a $5000 check.

Bosch took second place ($3000) with a program that allows the PR2 to sort mail. While I appreciate the practicality of that approach, I much prefer Bosch’s other entry. They taught their PR2 how to draw a self-portrait. Now, sure, getting robots to reproduce an art file manually is relatively simple. But it just looks awesome dammit!

Of course, you can take the whole, “it just looks cool approach” too far. Here’s the entry for Leuven. 10 points for style, but getting the PR2 to sign its name seems a little trivial:

Georgia Tech got the PR2 to re-enact a funny scene from the popular Homestar Runner website. Definitely good for a laugh. I included a follow up video for those that don’t get the reference.

Maybe you want some robot slapstick? MIT has you covered.

Here’s the entry from JSK. They got the PR2 to play the Japanese version of Red Light/Green Light with a bunch of Naos. Robots of different breeds playing together like children – my dream of machine unity has come true!

For a more practical application turn to Stanford. They got the PR2 to scan barcodes as if it was a cashier.

Want to see what the robot sees? UPenn’s second entry did just that by giving the PR2 some headtracking abilities and hooking it up to some video goggles.

Even when the PR2 is just having fun it reveals the power of Willow Garage’s 4th Milestone. By giving away these bots to research groups around the world they’ve increased the rate at which new code is developed for the robot significantly. 11 great videos for a “Quick Start” project. I can’t to see what these teams develop once things really get underway.

[source: Willow Garage]

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