New robot butler "HERB" can microwave your dinner (w/ Video)

May 3, 2012 by Bob Yirka report

(Phys.org) -- One of the big disappointments of the computer age is the distinct lack of robots in our everyday lives. For years we’ve all been teased by the possibilities of robots in SciFi movies and television shows, and still, the only robots in our lives are those little Roomba vacuum cleaners.

Now, though, it looks like we might finally be getting somewhere thanks to the efforts of the Carnegie Mellon Robotics Institute - started and run by Siddhartha Srinivasa, all courtesy of a grant from Intel. There, a research team has been hard at work trying to create robots that do stuff that everyday people might consider useful. Their latest creation is the Home Exploring Robot Butler, aka HERB.

HERB, has arms and hands (more like claws) and of course a lot of sensors and sits atop a Segway base that allows it to move around. For situational awareness in an unpredictable environment, such as the typical home, HERB has been armed with a spinning laser that provides “him” with a 40,000 points per second data stream. All of that allows the robot to move around in an unknown environment without bumping into things. But HERB has a lot of intelligence built in as well, and that’s how the research team has taught him to retrieve a frozen meal from a counter top, open a microwave oven door, slip in the meal, close the door and then run the microwave to properly heat the meal. Once it’s finished heating, he can retrieve the meal for consumption by its human master. All without a word of encouragement. HERB can also recognize and fetch requested items from a group of other similar objects.

This particular demonstration by the team is meant to convey to those that watch HERB in action that the goal of the Institute is to do research on real-world robotics applications rather than focusing on technology that is used for industrial, military or “cutesy” purposes. Their goal is nothing short of creating a that truly can do the things we all really want them to do, such as taking care of the laundry, cooking, washing the dishes, or perhaps most importantly, fetching a cold beer from the fridge for us as we sit back in kingly fashion in our easy chair watching football on the telly.

Explore further: Soft-bots: Research challenges traditional image of robotics

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15 comments

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HydraulicsNath
3 / 5 (4) May 03, 2012
"Perhaps most importantly, fetching a cold beer from the fridge for us as we sit back in kingly fashion in our easy chair watching football on the telly."

When the day comes for a robot that can do that I want one! Wouldn't it be such luxury to have a robot butler :) of course he'd have to move a little more efficiently than the prototype displayed here. Nonetheless Great work and research I reckon.
Birger
2.3 / 5 (3) May 03, 2012
Hmm. It will always be cheaper for 'mercans to hire a Mexican maid for sub-minimum wage to do what a $ 50.000 robot can do.
Robots will be fine for fire-fighting, bomb disposal or asbestos removal, but everyday robot use is only feasible for simple roomba-type devices for the foreseeable future.
Bowler_4007
1.7 / 5 (9) May 03, 2012
there is absolutely no good reason for this, are we getting so fat and lazy that we're physically incapable of getting into the kitchen and lifting the immense weight of microwave fries or pizza or perhaps something healthy???
Royale
1.7 / 5 (3) May 03, 2012
lol Bowler... People will be burning even less calories by not walking their fatasses to the fridge for a (150 empty-calorie) beer.
ChrisQC
4.2 / 5 (5) May 03, 2012
Don't stick with the beer comment, see this as a tool for people with disabilities. This could be a great improvement in their life.
Rene_de_los_Rios
1.5 / 5 (2) May 03, 2012
Honda's Asimo makes this thing look like a 3rd grade project. Just like that totally worthless robot on the space station. Are we really this far behind???? Is this the best we can do???
kaasinees
1.6 / 5 (7) May 03, 2012
I got my vote for the cheap mexican sex slave to make me sandwhich.

Honda's Asimo makes this thing look like a 3rd grade project. Just like that totally worthless robot on the space station. Are we really this far behind???? Is this the best we can do???

You should take a look at the game called Binary Domain, really interesting stuff.
Yes America is that far behind and so is most of the world.
Royale
5 / 5 (1) May 03, 2012
Don't stick with the beer comment, see this as a tool for people with disabilities. This could be a great improvement in their life.

That's accurate. But I personally see a lot more lazy people than people with disabilities. Also, there's even less rich people with disabilities that I know of.
HealingMindN
not rated yet May 03, 2012
I'm guessing HERB gets regular updates. To get those updates, HERB has to report its experiences to a data base to tweak its ops. I wonder who has access to that data base. Google?
Argiod
1 / 5 (3) May 03, 2012
LOL, a robot for everything...
Now, when a robot can fetch my beer, turn on the TV, do the housekeeping, grocery shop, and take care of my carnal needs; then, and only then, will it replace my 'Domestic Help w/Benefits'.
Until then; I'll stick with my little sweetie.
Toronto
not rated yet May 03, 2012
This is ridiculous! If it's a microwaving robot, just build the microwave in the robot.
Lordjavathe3rd
not rated yet May 03, 2012
I wonder why the engineers stick with designs where robots have slow speed.
MandoZink
not rated yet May 03, 2012
I would hate to come home and find that one of our cats had jumped up on the counter in front of "Herb". We only threaten to microwave them as a behavioral modification strategy. That's been a futile ploy anyhow.
Bowler_4007
1 / 5 (2) May 05, 2012
lol Bowler... People will be burning even less calories by not walking their fatasses to the fridge for a (150 empty-calorie) beer.
lol yeah that was somewhat what i was getting at.

Don't stick with the beer comment, see this as a tool for people with disabilities. This could be a great improvement in their life.
That's accurate. But I personally see a lot more lazy people than people with disabilities. Also, there's even less rich people with disabilities that I know of.
i know a fair few disabled people and most of them manage their cooking fine, without special equipment, but i suppose there will be people who may benefit, from (what is essentially) a robot butler
slayerwulfe
not rated yet May 06, 2012
your grandmother will be long dead before this is perfected because HERB can't understand what to take out of the freezer. Japan vs India robotics Japan 10 India 0.l.

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