Willow Garage Teaches Robot Not To Crush Puny Humans (Video)

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LEFT: Bad robot, no crushing! RIGHT: That's it, treat the Sunkist with respect.

If Sam Waterson taught me anything it’s that I need to fear the powerful grip of robots. Because robots are made of metal…and they’re strong. Thankfully Silcon Valley robotics startup Willow Garage has worked to relieve my anxiety by teaching their PR2 bot how not to crush things – including humans. This summer UPenn grad student Joe Romano instructed the PR2 how to use tactile feedback (aka haptics) to hold delicate objects. Sensors in the grippers allow the robot to easily pick up and place objects, or hand them off to a human. Other researchers can freely incorporate Romano’s work because, as with all Willow Garage code, it’s made available via the open source Robot Operating System library (ROS). The PR2 already had some safety features on its movements that kept it from banging into people, but the new haptic feedback is a big improvement. Making sure a robot won’t crush things is a necessity if you want to sell it to researchers all over the world, as Willow Garage is aiming to do. Catch the video below to see Romano showcase the PR2’s human friendly grip. Make sure you watch until the end to catch a great series of high five shenanigans. Double fist pound into explosion – Ha! Priceless.

[screen capture and video credit: Willow Garage]
[source: Willow Garage Blog]