If you’ve ever assisted someone else with putting on a garment, you know that there’s a bit of trial and error. While one has to deal with a moving human and flexible fabric, the dressing-assistant can draw on years of putting clothes on to understand how it feels to the other person. As seen here, robots have none of this real world experience, so to help with this deceptively complicated task, Georgia Tech researchers have designed PR2 — a robot which relies on force, not vision, to dress people.
In order to learn how to complete this task, the robot taught itself to dress people by analyzing around 11,000 simulations of a robot placing the arm of a hospital gown on a human. This allows it to estimate the forces that it’s applying to that person. As seen in the video below, the robot is now able to accomplish this task, though the subjects look like they might be slightly nervous about the operation!
While a high-end robot butler might come to mind, this could actually be quite helpful to society, as over 1 million Americans alone require assistance getting dressed. As lead faculty member Charlie Kemp puts it, “The more robots can understand about us, the more they’ll be able to help us.” Or, if you’re more pessimistic — e.g. Terminator, 2001, Tron, and a plethora of other science fiction works— exactly the opposite!