Researchers at Georgia Tech are working on a fascinating robot based on MacGyver’s character in the classic television series. As robots are being used more and more to go into disaster zones that may be dangerous for humans, this GT bot is being designed to embody the use-what-you-got problem-solving attitude MacGyver is known for.
From Georgia Tech’s site:
A research team led by Professor Mike Stilman at the Georgia Institute of Technology hopes to change that by giving robots the ability to use objects in their environments to accomplish high-level tasks. The team recently received a three-year, $900,000 grant from the Office of Naval Research to work on this project.
“Our goal is to develop a robot that behaves like MacGyver, the television character from the 1980s who solved complex problems and escaped dangerous situations by using everyday objects and materials he found at hand,” said Stilman, an assistant professor in the School of Interactive Computing at Georgia Tech. “We want to understand the basic cognitive processes that allow humans to take advantage of arbitrary objects in their environments as tools. We will achieve this by designing algorithms for robots that make tasks that are impossible for a robot alone possible for a robot with tools.”
The research will build on Stilman’s previous work on navigation among movable obstacles that enabled robots to autonomously recognize and move obstacles that were in the way of their getting from point A to point B.
“This project is challenging because there is a critical difference between moving objects out of the way and using objects to make a way,” explained Stilman. “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.”
To create a robot capable of using objects in its environment to accomplish a task, Stilman plans to develop an algorithm that will allow a robot to identify an arbitrary object in a room, determine the object’s potential function, and turn that object into a simple machine that can be used to complete an action. Actions could include using a chair to reach something high, bracing a ladder against a bookshelf, stacking boxes to climb over something, and building levers or bridges from random debris.
While this project is far from complete, it’ll definitely be interesting to watch as it develops.