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Touchy robot butler could tidy up and load your dishwasher after that big party

Is loading the dishwasher just too much like hard work? British scientists have built a robot which can handle your cups and saucers without leaving a pile of smashed china.

The robot, named Boris, can identify objects such as plates, pans, cutlery and cups using sensors on its wrists and face, then work out how to pick up each different shape in the most efficient way.

Boris has five fingers on its human-like hands, so so it pick things up as if it was a human. Research engineer Maxine Adjigble said he has been trained to pick up objects in a certain way depending on their properties, so Boris hopefully won’t smash those delicate wine glasses by squeezing too hard.

Boris the robot has five fingers so he can use his hands like a human
Boris the robot has five fingers so he can use his hands like a human

Professor Jeremy Wyatt, of the University of Brimingham School of Computer Science, said: “It’s not been programmed to pick it up – it’s been programmed to learn how to pick it up.

“The idea is to get the robot to load your dishwasher. You get a bunch of objects off a table, scattered as you might have them on a kitchen surface, and the robot will look through the set of objects, find one it wants to pick up, figure out where to put it in the dishwasher, and load it.”

Wyatt said he decided to assign the task of loading the dishwasher to his robot because it’s a typical task that humans engage in and requires ‘all the manipulative faculties that evolution spent hundreds of millions of years developing’.

While symmetrical objects like plates and cups are now within Boris’s grasp, Professor Wyatt said it will take longer for the robot to understand slim, light objects like knives and forks.

Wyatt said that Boris is part of the third generation of robots which will be able to work alongside people in the unstructured and uncertain world built by humans.

At the moment, researchers are still working on introducing second-generation systems to the mainstream, which include self-driving cars and drones, like those Amazon is hoping will deliver its Prime goods at some point in future.

There’s still a way to go until we’ll be seeing Boris in our home though. The team is working to fix its pinkie after it broke back in June, and is trying to perfect his sense of touch.

Their next goal is to enable it to use both arms together to handle objects, and to develop a sense of touch so the robot can understand what sort of surfaces it’s in contact with as well as their shapes.


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