AI News, BOOK REVIEW: Simple Robots Perform Complex Tasks With Environmental Modifications

Simple Robots Perform Complex Tasks With Environmental Modifications

There’s an expectation in robotics that in order to be useful, robots have to be able to adapt to unstructured environments.

An enormous amount of effort and creativity goes into designing robots that can reliably operate in places like these, with a focus on developing methods of sensing, locomotion, and manipulation that handle all kinds of different situations.

Rather than trying to find a way for the robot to handle obstacles like these, the UPenn researchers decided to teach the robot to modify its environment by giving it access to blocks and ramps that it could (autonomously) use to make obstacles less obstacle-y.

This behavior is completely autonomous: The system is given a high-level task to accomplish, and the ramps and blocks are placed in the environment for it to use if it decides that they’d come in handy, but it doesn’t have explicit instructions about what to do every time.

And mobility is just one example of environmental augmentation: Perception is a challenge for robots, but what if you had a robot with lots of fancy sensors scout out an environment, and then place fiducials or RFID markers all over the place so that other robots with far cheaper sensors could easily navigate around and recognize objects?

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