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A View from Kristina Grifantini

Teleoperated Design Revealed for Assistant Robots

A system lets users manage a team of robots through cloud computing.

  • April 29, 2009

Readybot, a research group that last year released videos of a simple prototype cleaning robot, has revealed that the robot is managed through a combination of cloud-based software and skilled remote teleoperators.

Readybot operates autonomously or through remote control. (Courtesy of Readybot)

The company’s Cloud Robotics Collaborative Control (CRCC) system monitors a semi-autonomous robot via a broadband connection. When faced with a particularly tricky task, such as opening a cabinet door, the robot will send a request for a human supervisor to step in and take over. The human operator does this by selecting or refining one of several prepared code of instructions (“scripts”) or writing new ones, according to Readybot’s director, Tom Benson. The CRCC system is designed to let a single user supervise a large team of robots.

“This has the potential to deploy large quantities of robots much sooner, because they’re cheaper and because you aren’t required to build high levels of autonomy,” Benson said. “It’s much more forgiving in the sense of allowing you to have less sophisticated systems and still do the job.” Benson says that Readybots would be best suited for applications like home assist or manual labor.

Using a regular mouse and monitor, a user can switch between 3D simulations of different robots (with a video feed showing the bot’s environment) and can swap between supervising and taking completely control of a robot. Currently, the software can control a single prototype Readybot and up to nine virtual robots.

The company says it took inspiration from video gamers by examining how people playing World of Warcraft, The Sims, and other games and designing the system based on those observations. Gamers who tested out Readybot’s operating software were able to operate it quickly and efficiently, according to the group. People who have played a lot of video games “can manage large amounts of remote devices and can think in that way,” says Benson. “They are capable of managing vast amounts of multitasking.”

Courtesy of Readybot

So far, Readybot can clear a kitchen table, load a dishwasher, transport objects, paint walls, and clean and dry surfaces. The group is currently looking for partners to build more prototypes and to expand the capabilities of CRCC.

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