Ashutosh Saxena, Cornell University assistant professor of computer science, is working to bring robots into homes and offices that can clean up a messy room, assemble a flat-pack bookcase or unload a dishwasher, all without human intervention, a university release said Thursday.
"Just like people buy a car, I envision that in five to 10 years, people will buy an assistive robot that will be cheaper or about the same cost as a car," Saxena said.
A technical challenge is giving robots the ability to learn in uncertain environments.
It's one thing to make a robot do simple tasks like "pick up this pen, move to the right, turn 360 degrees." It's quite another to enable a robot to understand how to pick up an object it's never come across before or navigate a room it's never been in.
Saxena has focused on how to make robots gather information in cluttered and unknown environments. Using a camera, one of his robots can evaluate an object -- say a cup or plate – and figure out how best to grab it.
This kind of technology will eventually become the basic capability of a full-fledged dishwasher-unloading robot, he says.