Busy Robot Can Successfully Use an Elevator All By Itself

Monday, 06 November 2017 - 8:07PM
Technology
Robotics
Monday, 06 November 2017 - 8:07PM
Busy Robot Can Successfully Use an Elevator All By Itself
YouTube/Robotic Systems Lab
There's something strangely sweet about watching a robot - particularly a non-humanoid robot that's far away from the Uncanny Valley - learning to perform simple tasks. So when a robot successfully presses a button to call an elevator, then deftly steps inside, it's hard not to feel a swell of pride for all robot-kind has achieved in the past few years.

ETH Zurich's ANYmal is a cute little quadruped that's as graceful as a newborn lamb. Engineers have been teaching this pint-sized machine to do all kinds of helpful things all by itself, such as unplugging itself from a charge, climbing up slight ledges, and most recently, working an elevator.

Simple as it may sound for us humans, it's an impressive act for robots, and one that likely required that QR code beneath the elevator button. See it below:



The footage is very obviously sped up - presumably to make the video more exciting, but it's fun to think that this was done by a caring parent who just wants to show off their baby's big achievement from the time it took an elevator ride all by itself. Of course, as sweet as it is for ANYmal to make its own way into the elevator, what's even more adorable is watching it try desperately to handle a flight of stairs.

This robot is not yet as dexterous as it could be, and it handles stairs with the faltering uncertainty of a human toddler. What really makes this video a joy to behold, though, is the way that ANYmal is guided up a flight of stairs by several attentive human grown-ups, hoverhands at the ready in case the poor little thing slips and falls as it climbs up the rope that's been set up to make the stairs easier.



Perhaps ANYmal is particularly good at engendering pathos because it's so small, and because it looks like the robot featured in the parody video purportedly from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Robots (but not actually connected to the real ASPCR). There's only so many times you can see a person kick a robot as it tries desperately to remain upright before you start feeling genuinely sorry for the poor little tin can.

Just a few short years ago the idea of an autonomous, independently motivated robot being dexterous enough to operate an elevator would have seemed a long way in the future. Robot technology has advanced in leaps and bounds in recent years, and while there's still a long way to go, engineers and scientists are producing increasingly complex, capable machine helpers that are already helping us in various industries, in many different ways.

ANYmal's awkward stumbling may seem very basic right now, but it won't be long before autonomous, self-contained robots will be every bit as capable on their feet - probably more so - than any human.

Our little metal babies are growing up. Today, they're opening elevators and being granted Saudi citizenship. Tomorrow they'll probably be enslaving us for nefarious purposes, but some of them are just so cute that we'll be thrilled they've finally realized just how awful our species really is. Here's hoping our robot children will go easy on us once they realize they've surpassed their own parents in endeavors of physical exertion.
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