You know, you ought to give your hands much more credit than they deserve. I am quite sure that many of us do not really put much thought in how much pressure we use when holding an egg, compared to say, carrying a heavy block of wood. Well, robots aren’t particularly smart in doing so, since it involves plenty of mathematical calculations to get the work done. Researchers might have stumbled upon a shortcut which might make robots take that small step towards being human – at least when it comes to holding a coffee cup.
At the moment, motion-planning algorithms take a long time to figure out the most efficient path from one position to another, so these robots decide to just find a path that will not cause the robot’s limbs to smack into the table. While it works, it results in rather strange sets of motion which actually waste time and energy, in addition to potentially scaring the wits out of humans around it.
Matthew Walter, a computer scientist at MIT, and his team have worked on a new algorithm that takes the road less – nay, never traveled. Their robot will instead assume that each point it evaluates is surrounded by a sphere of open space, hence all points within this space will be ignored. As the robot maps out all potential collisions, it will shrink or expand these spheres accordingly, resulting in an overlapping volume of clear space which allows it to move through naturally without being awkward to look at or being around with.