Robot Masters Household Tasks

Researchers from the University of California-Berkeley have created Blue, a robot designed to fold towels.

Luckily, there is a little more to the equation as Blue — which resembles the frame of a CrossFit bro — was designed to master basic but intricate human tasks like folding the laundry or making a cup of coffee. If you watch it in action, it kind of looks like a Gap worker the first day on the job: nervous, fidgety, but there’s promise.

Typically, when we think of robots, we think big industrial machines moving cars frames and tending machines. Blue was designed to use artificial intelligence and deep reinforcement learning to master human tasks using trial and error or demonstration, like when a human teaches it how to do something.

The researchers also developed Blue to be affordable and safe enough so that it could one day be found in every home. Right now, Blue's components total less than $5,000 to manufacture and assemble. 

The robot has a wide range of motion with joints that are designed to mimic human movement, and it’s also designed to expend energy much like a human. For example, it can also hold up to two kilograms with its arms fully extended, but it is "thermally-limited." Like a human, it can exert a force well beyond the two-kilogram limit in a quick burst, until its thermal limits are reached and it needs to take a breather.

Next, the team will work on improving Blue's durability, and the startup Berkeley Open Arms will try and figure out how to manufacture it on a larger scale.

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