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  Autonomous Robotic Manipulation

Manipulation technologies developed through the ARM program could be used by personal assistive robots in kitchens and other household environments. (Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

Robotic manipulators have a number of problems that limit their widespread use.  They have poor force and touch feedback.  Restrictions on camera field-of-view, perspective, and communications bandwidth make non line-of-sight teleoperation a challenge.  

They are also difficult to control and demand their operator’s complete attention. Some robots, such as those used in bomb squads, even require the operator to manually control every joint on the manipulator.  This makes ordinary tasks like opening doors and picking up objects unnecessarily difficult, tedious, and prone to mistakes.

DARPA’s ambitious Autonomous Robotic Manipulator (ARM) program wants to change this.  It’s giving manipulators the ability to follow high-level commands like “pick up a briefcase” or “open a door.”  The robot will use its sensors to detect the item (or items) in question, then intelligently carry out the task.   Carnegie Mellon is participating in the program’s software track (ARM-S). 

Improving the capability and usability of the next generation of robotic manipulators will make them more even valuable for jobs they already perform. It will also open up new areas for manipulators, including light agile assembly, retail, personal and household robots, and agriculture.
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