It seems more and more jobs are threatened by the field of robotics and restaurant service has been added to the list by the fact that robot bartender and waiters might be on the way. There is a certain draw to the use of technology to replace humans in certain tasks that cannot be discounted.
They can work on near flawless algorithms, eliminate the matter of emotions such as stress or anxiety, ability to reach extensive information and heightened, mathematic precision. At least, that’s what movies have taught us about a robot-dominated future where at the press of a button, we can avoid human interaction and possible mistakes.
However, the development of robots have been seeing expected issues that have not been properly fixed until now and it’s one of the main advantages humans still maintain. They are unable to efficiently adjust to the uncertain and the unexpected. That’s where the researchers at MIT come in.
The Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) team at the university in Massachusetts have recently presented at the Robotics Science and System conference, a team of robots that might be serving you drinks in the future by converting their own lab into a makeshift bar.
The PR2 “bartender” robot and the two Turtlebot waiters were able to reason and comply to delivering drinks in different rooms of the office, to the proper customer and proper order, which may actually be step up from the average waiter who has understandably made both of those mistakes at least a few times throughout their life.
The planning algorithm that features nothing less than high-level performance and robotic ingenuity, has also faced the issue of managing the robots to handle problems of uncertain situation that might’ve not been expected. A glass falling, the fact that the “bartender” is busy or has not noticed the “waiters” or simply the matter of communication have been considered.
It forced them to work on a better coordination between the robots and the required awareness of what is happening around them. Otherwise they would just be bumping into things and each other, without a proper way of sensing where another of their “co-worker” is. They reviewed the three problems of uncertainty: locations, status and behavior.
With the “MacDec-POMDPs” approach (or more simply know as “macro-actions”), they were able to include multiple steps into a robot’s programming by planning actions on different layered and higher levels, and allowing it to perform a certain type of multitasking. Thus, they are able to achieve a sort of “teamplay” among the robots.
While serving drinks could be one use, the more practical ones are aimed toward disaster situations or battlefield conditions, where injured people could be helped and fetched their needs with the use of robotic helpers.
However, there is still a great measure of research needed before we get to a moment in time when we might trust them in real-life, stressful scenarios.
Image source: gizmag.com
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