Although it was designed to help robots organise clutter, the rearrangement software from Carnegie Mellon University has managed to generate creativity in robots’ problem-solving.
“It was exploiting sort of superhuman capabilities,” Associate Professor Siddhartha Srinivasa said of his lab’s two-armed mobile robot, HERB.
“The robot’s wrist has a 270-degree range, which led to behaviours we didn’t expect.”
In one case, the robot used the crook of its arm to cradle an object ready to be moved.
“We never taught it that,” said Srinivasa.
According to the associate professor, the robot is able to find a balance between the two strategies of rearrangement; “pick-and-place” and “push and shove”.
The system is limited however, as once the robot has evaluated a situation and developed its plan to move an object, it is not able to make any last-minute changes. Therefore, work is underway to provide tactile and other feedback to help alert the robot to changes and miscalculations and enable it to make the necessary corrections.