MIT engineers are the proud creators of a team of independent robots working together as staff in a pub.
By that we mean that they are indeed designed to collaborate with each other so that the final result of their actions is getting beer to your table.
The engineers behind the project come from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. And their three bar staff robots would do great in a real-life environment where customers of all sorts would ask to be served by mechanized bartenders and waiters.
Maybe they don’t have the same leaning ear as most bartenders do, but the three robots work well together in pouring, carrying and delivering the beverages to your table.
The bartender is a special PR2 robot, while the two waiters are the four-wheeled Turtlebot robots. The engineers wished to emphasize not the specific traits of each robot turned bar staff, but their ability to work as a team, performing accurate and timely tasks.
The two Turtlebots have been programmed to understand and anticipate the drinks that are needed and where and to calculate times from order to delivery so as to offer the best service.
As such, all robots involved in the system are programmed not to micromanage, but for macro actions, as the team called them. Problem-solving strategy development is the strong point of the robots.
While this is indeed a funny application for the robots, the higher purpose of testing this type of technology and algorithms supporting it is to prepare robots for assisting humans in unpredictable situations and deciding on the best course of action.
Not only do the robots not micromanage, but they are programmed with knowledge gaps so as to better simulate a chaotic scenario, emphasizing high-pressure and timely decision-making. Thus, meet the robots of the future, that are capable of managing uncertainty.
Ariel Anders of MIT stated:
“Each robot’s sensors get less-than-perfect information about the location and status of both themselves and the things around them”.
The three robots did not know where the others were, what they were doing or what their orders are. Admittedly, it took them a little longer to navigate through all the actions and perform them correctly, yet that only indicates that they are ready for enhancements and tweaks that will allow them to perform better.
“It forced us to work on more complex planning algorithms that allow the robots to engage in higher-level reasoning about their location, status and behavior”,
We could use a helping robotic hand in managing uncertainty, for sure. For now, we will enjoy the robots’ experiences in their make-do bar. However, the potential of artificial intelligence equipped better and better to manage real-life scenarios is fascinating.
More about the three robots turned bar staff may be read in the article published in the Robotic Proceedings journal.
Photo Credits: gizmag.com