If MacGyver were trapped behind a jammed door in a burning room, he would use his shirt to filter the smoke, then craft an explosive from a paperclip and strand of hair to blow that baby open.
If today's most sophisticated robot found itself in the same conundrum, it would likely be unable to follow the famed secret agent's resourceful example. A team of Georgia Institute of Technology researchers hopes to change that.
They're working to equip machines to use objects in their path for high-level tasks, particularly those involved in tedious military operations. Robots are forging an increasing presence in military and civilian missions, with the U.S. military actively challenging roboticists to design robots for disaster relief.
"This project is challenging because there is a critical difference between moving objects out of the way and using objects to make a way," Mike Stilman, a Georgia Tech professor of robotics who's leading the research team, said in a statement. "Researchers in the robot motion planning field have traditionally used computerized vision systems to locate objects in a cluttered environment to plan collision-free paths, but these systems have not provided any information about the objects' functions." … Read more