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Domestic Robots Make Breakfast

In a match made in domestic heaven, the robots TUM-James and TUM-Rosie have been used to successfully prepare traditional Bavarian breakfast called Weisswurst Frühstück, made of sausage and bread. The robots have previously been used to make more commonplace pancakes. Their skills in the kitchen undoubtedly make them masters of the first meal of the day.

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James is a PR2 robot. He was built by the U.S. robotics firm Willow Garage, and brought to Germany as part of the PR2Beta Program, which seeks to popularize personal robots. At the Technical University Munich (TUM), James began working alongside Rosie, which is a dual-arm robot. The machines have several similarities in design and operation: they both run Robot Operating Systems (ROS), use Hokuyo laser scanners and Kinect 3D sensors, and have omnidirectional mobile bases.

But despite their similarities each robot performs their own specific tasks in the kitchen. Led by Dr. Michael Beets and Dr. Bernd Radig from the IAS group at TUM, the James robot goes shopping for items needed to make the meal, in addition to slicing a baguette to accompany the sausages that Rosie boils and serves.

In a demonstration for researchers at Cognition for Technical Systems (CoTeSys) in Munich, the robots worked together to make the meal. Rosie collects the sausages, puts them in the pot with the boiling water, waits for them to be cooked, and then places the cooked sausages in a serving bowl. The robot is using its Kinect and perception algorithms from COP (cognitive perception module) to calibrate the cooking utensil and use it as a tool. Rosie had to learn the 3D models for the pot and bowls in order to identify them, using its torque sensors for depth perception to connect exactly with the desired objects. Rosie also had to identify the sausages from the rest of the pot, to localize them and scoop them out at the right time.

James slices bread using a standard electric slicer, putting the cut pieces onto a dish for serving. To accomplish this the robot is using real-time RGB-D sensing through its Kinect sensor to detect the slicer and the baguette. Serving the bread requires it to use its PR2’s haptic abilities to grasp and manipulate the plate properly.

The ability of these robots to be programmed to make breakfast, suggests that the robot housekeeper we’ve been waiting for may not be a mere figment of the future. While their abilities are limited to performing specific tasks, combining James and Rosie with Rollin’ Justin the coffee making robot would undoubtedly lead to a satisfying breakfast.

(Technabob via IEEE Spectrum)

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