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May 31, 2011

Cornell Student Project Grants a Peek at the Future of Robotics

With robotics becoming a more widely accept subsection of engineering, many universities are offering programs that prepare their students for careers in the quickly evolving field. Recently at Cornell, students of the robotics program were tasked with the development of a personal robots designed to handle a certain job. The results offered a diverse array of robots each with a unique approach to the objective.

Ashutosh Saxena, assistant professor of computer science, headed up the effort and student presented their finished projects on May 17th. The experiment was designed to address issues with “machine learning,” which is one aspect of robotics still under development. Industrial robots are programmed to do the same thing over and over again but in the near future, robots helping us around the house will need to correct their actions to work more efficiently.

In one project, the 3D camera of the Xbox Kinect was hooked up to a robotic arm designed for industrial fabrication. By programming the arm to use the camera to determine the size, density, and weight of an item before it attempted to pick it up the students enabled it to interact with a variety of objects rather than just the production materials it was originally designed to handle.

According to an article by Bill Steele on Cornell’s website, “Some projects are aimed at search and rescue applications. Several student teams modified Quadrotors -- a flying toy you can buy for about $300 -- to avoid objects, follow humans, go to predetermined GPS coordinates or act as sentries, checking the ID of anyone who approaches. One flyer has been taught to escape from a building by flying through hallways looking for exit signs and open doors.”

Saxena claims that the aspects of each of these experiments could be integrated into one relatively inexpensive robot that would be able to handle variety of household tasks.

Chris DiMarco is a Web Editor for RobotXworld. He holds a master's degree in journalism from Quinnipiac University. Prior to joining TMC Chris worked with e-commerce provider Suresource as a contact center representative and development analyst. To read more of his articles, please visit his columnist page. Follow him on Twitter @cpdimarco.

Edited by Rich Steeves

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