Who wouldn’t want a robot that could make your bed or do the laundry? Well, a team of Berkeley researchers has brought us one important step closer by, for the first time, enabling an autonomous robot to reliably fold piles of previously unseen towels.
Robots that can do things like assembling cars have been around for decades. The towel-folding robot, though, is doing something very new, according to the leaders of the Berkeley team, doctoral student Jeremy Maitin-Shepard and Assistant Professor Pieter Abbeel of Berkeley’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences.
Robots like the car-assembly ones are designed to work in highly structured settings, which allows them to perform a wide variety of tasks with mind-boggling precision and repeatability — but only in carefully controlled environments, Maitin-Shepard and Abbeel explain. Outside of such settings, their capabilities are much more limited.