Any beer left in that bottle? Ask a PR2 robot

Another step in the quest for the perfect beer-serving robot. Willow Garage's PR2 can now distinguish whether bottles are full or empty.

Here's looking at you, meatsack. Video screenshot by Tim Hornyak/CNET
The folks at Willow Garage are still hell-bent on creating the perfect alcohol-serving robot.

In July, they hacked their PR2 humanoid robot to make it fetch beer from a fridge. Now PR2 can distinguish empty bottles from full ones.

This is a significant accomplishment that can promote the well-being of lazy drinkers everywhere. We owe our thanks to Jivko Sinapov of Iowa State's Developmental Robotics Laboratory.

Sinapov and collaborators programmed the Menlo Park, Calif.-start-up's open-source humanoid so that it can determine the properties of an object by lifting or moving it around. The goal was to allow the droid to better understand its environment by manipulating it, and not just relying on data from laser scanners or cameras.

Sinapov had the robot experience the difference between a full and an empty object by lifting and sliding it. With only 10 to 20 minutes of training, PR2 was able to learn how to distinguish between full and empty bottles by measuring the effect on its joints. It's also being trained to determine empties by their hollow sound.

When given a random assortment of bottles (admittedly plastic, not glass), it chucked out all the empties with 100 percent accuracy.

So how long before it can distinguish between good and bad beer?


 

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