PR2 robot learns to read, follows words anywhere

At the University of Pennsylvania, Willow Garage's polymath PR2 robot is reading everything in sight, including T-shirts and coffee labels.

I think I'd fail this eye test. Video screenshot by Tim Hornyak/CNET

Since researchers around the world are experimenting with Willow Garage's PR2 robot, it keeps acquiring cool new skills like bagging groceries , doing housework , and handling beer bottles .

Recently, engineers at the University of Pennsylvania gave PR2 some literacy skills. As seen in the video below, it can roam the halls of campus reading out posters on doors and walls.

Menglong Zhu and colleagues at the university's GRASP robotics lab tinkered with a Kinect-equipped PR2 dubbed "Graspy" and taught it to recognize printed text on paper and signs as well as handwriting on whiteboard.

First, it locates text on a nearby surface (including the floor and labels on household products). Then it performs text recognition using Tesseract OCR software, and reads the words aloud.

Graspy can handle various fonts and text colors, but its reading isn't smooth or perfect, missing the digits "50" on one poster--perhaps because they were stylized.

The skill isn't earth-shattering, and indeed humanoid robots have been reading text and even musical scores for years. Still, it's cute to see Graspy exploring its new ability to read just like a child does.

Plus, the group has posted the literacy code to Willow Garage's open-source Robot Operating System (ROS) library, meaning all other PR2s can potentially read as well. Not only that, but other robots could too, since ROS is running all kinds of machines, from humanoids to autonomous cars.

That means you could make a talking, intelligent car like KITT. Or create mobile robots that could help visually impaired people.

The mech voice definitely needs work, though. Where's William Daniels when you need him?


(Via CBS News)

 

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