MIT is worldwide known for its robotics research. In the past, they managed to create a robot breaking the world record in solving a Rubik’s Cube in only 0.38 seconds, the first four-legged robot to do a backflip, etc.
Sounds impressive, but with their newest development, they can’t just look cool, but it can be used in many ways and bring the robots on to the next level of productivity.
Picking up objects and flipping them around is easy for people. We do it every day, e.g., when we are trying to take notes at University, work, or at home. We pick up the pen and bring it into the right position and start writing. The same scenario is when we are eating a sandwich: We move it a little bit to bite from the other corner.
For our robot friends, however, it is tough to pick up things without either dropping them or destroying them and then to add the factor of turning the object they just mastered to hold? It sounds like a difficult task.
Therefore it took robots a long time to plan and calculate all the factors like geometry, friction, all the possibilities of how the object can be turned, etc. This whole process took tens of minutes previously, which sounds still impressive, bearing in mind that if we measured and calculate these numbers, we would sit there for hours and probably still fail.
MIT mastered to bring down the planning time of the robot to less than a second.
How is that possible? The robot is pushing the object against a stationary surface and slides its claw down the object until it has it in the right position.
For the future, this can mean that instead of a specialized tool like a screwdriver, machines would have more something like a hand, giving them the ability to pick up different kinds of tools and do various tasks.
This improvement would most likely save the companies space and also money since, for multiple steps, they would need one robot.
This is another case were thinking out of the box, by simply using the surroundings, has a huge effect.