The technical, mechanical, electrical, and software aspects are definitely critical parts of robot design, and they are extremely interesting. However, they are only enablers – tools and techniques – that support some higher, more abstract purpose. They are the ‘means to an end’, not the end itself, unless you happen to be a total robot geek.
One group that knows that very well, and is committed to exploring and expanding the way that humans and robots interact, merge their lives, and complement each other, demonstrated a garment folding robot at Siggraph 2009 in New Orleans.
Folding a garment, like a t-shirt for example, may seem like a relatively minor and not so utilitarian task. However, the task itself isn’t as important as the knowledge and insight the reasearchers gained by successfully executing the project – knowledge and insight that will be built and expanded upon to implement more complex and meaningful applications as their work progresses.
Graphical Instruction for a Garment-Folding Robot
This project demonstrates an interactive graphical editing interface that tells intelligent robots how to complete tasks in dynamic environments. Here a robot can be taught how to fold garments using this new, graphical approach.