October 19, 2011, 11:12 AM — Despite rapid advances in artificial intelligence and robotics during the past few decades, and the increasing cost-effectiveness of robotic machines to automate everything from trimming the grass on golf courses to fulfilling orders at distribution centers, robots haven't made much of a direct impact on consumers except for a few robot vacuums and toys.
That may change following the announcement from a leader in the market for general-purpose robots and robot components that it has taught its Personal Robot 2 model how to scoop poop.
The $400,000Willow Garage Personal Robot 2 aren't cost-effective for the average consumer. They're actually designed more as a platform for research into getting robots to take over personal tasks, which involves more programming than most consumers can manage just to give up having to fold laundry or make sausages.
For their pet-management-automation breakthrough, researchers customized the PR2 by adding an extension suitable for scooping the poop of domestic animal companions may change that, however, by taking over some of the more odious aspects of pet ownership.
It was built and programmed by a research team at the University of Pennsylvania's General Robotics, Automation, Sensing and Perception (GRASP) Labs.
The team added a scooper to the PR2's articulated arm and wrote software that allow the PR2 to perceive, navigate and manipulate objects in its environment well enough that it achieved an accuracy rate of 95 percent when tasked in lab tests with picking up artificial dog poop. The research team did not explain why it has artificial dogs in its lab or why it allows them to poop there.
Unfortunately this obvious breakthrough in human/robot relations is weighted down with an overly academic extended acronym – Perception Of Offensive Products and Sensorized Control Of Object Pickup (POOP SCOOP) – a potentially threatening nickname (Graspy) and no current prospects of becoming a commercial product any time soon.