SnackBot: Polite host, research platform, vending machine
This mobile humanoid robot rolls around with a tray of sweets. I want one that will bring me shots of tequilla. Good tequilla.
Cravers, I'd like to introduce you to SnackBot. He is exactly what he sounds like: a robot that brings you snacks. He wanders around a place, say a hotel lobby during a convention, with a tray of sweets.
This, people, is what robots are for: Bringing me food. Or beer. Or making sure I don't have to wait in line at the counter for something. This has always been the promise of full robotics--they are made to be servants. They'll happily navigate crowds doing jobs nobody else wants to do (could you imagine this guy answering your door on Halloween?").
That is, of course, until they become sentient and decide they are superior. Then they're all about finding Sarah Conner and killing us all. Naturally.
But this mobile, humanoid robot--which was created by an interdisciplinary team at Carnegie Mellon University--isn't just a toy. It's a prototype for studying human-robot interaction (PDF) in the real world.
As robots become more prevalent (and they will), the ways we deal with them will become more important. Questions inevitably are coming up about how we communicate with robots, how comfortable we are when they're around, and how technophobes deal with the change.
SnackBot is a study platform that aims to answer some of those questions--while bringing us peanut brittle.