Jan 29, 2018

How to Optimize Your Home for Robot Servants

Posted by in categories: robotics/AI, transportation

Robots can walk, talk, run a hotel … and are entirely stumped by a doorknob. Or a mailbox. Or a dirty bathtub—zzzzt, dead. Sure, the SpotMini, a doglike domestic helper from Boston Dynamics, can climb stairs, but it struggles to reliably hand over a can of soda. That’s why some roboticists think the field needs to flip its perspective. “There are two approaches to building robots,” says Maya Cakmak, a researcher at the University of Washington. “Make the robot more humanlike to handle the environment, or design the environment to make it a better fit for the robot.” Cakmak pursues the latter, and to do that, she studies so-called universal design—the ways in which buildings and products are constructed for older people or those with disabilities. Robot can’t handle the twisting staircase? Put in a ramp. As for that pesky doorknob? Make entryways motion-activated. If you want droids at your beck and call someday, start thinking about robo-fitting your digs now.

1. Wide-Open Floor Plan Any serious sans-­human housekeeping needs a wheeled robotic butler with arms, Cakmak says. That means fewer steps, plus hallways wide enough for U-turns. Oh, and hardwood floors. Thick carpeting slows a bot’s roll.

2. Visual Waypoints Factory robots work so fast in part because their world is highly structured—conveyor belt here, truck over there. So for your robo-home, create landmarks that anchor the bots in space—a promi­nent light fixture, say, that tells them, “You’re in the dining room.” (RFID tags will help bots locate smaller objects, like cleaning supplies.)

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