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Georgia Tech receives $900,000 to build 'MacGyver' robot

updated 03:32 pm EDT, Fri October 12, 2012

Robot to use objects as tools and simple machines

A team of researchers have been given funds to develop a robot that behaves like MacGyver. A three-year, $900,000 grant from the Office of Naval Research has been handed to the Georgia Institute of Technology, to try and create a machine that can interact with the local environment as well as humans can.

Taking the name and idea from the TV character MacGyver, the team intends to construct a robot capable of using everyday objects to solve complex problems and potentially dangerous situations. "We aim to understand the basic cognitive processes that allow humans to take advantage of arbitrary objects in their environments as tools," said Professor Mike Stilman, continuing "We will achieve this by designing algorithms for robots that make tasks that are impossible for a robot alone possible for a robot with tools."

The project will build upon previous work by Stilman, of robots navigating from one place to another by moving obstacles out of the way if necessary. The new algorithms will allow the robot to identify objects, determine its potential function, and then turn that object into a simple machine. Examples include using a chair to reach something high, or using a stick or cane as a lever to force an object higher.

If successful, the research could be used towards building machines to help military personnel or emergency services in their jobs. "Professor Stilman's work on the 'MacGyver-bot' is the first of its kind, and is already beginning to deliver on the promise of mechanical teammates able to creatively perform in high-stakes situations" said Paul Bello, director of the cognitive science program in the Office of Naval Research.

Parallels could be drawn between the MacGyver-bot project and another by Florida International University, which is aiming to create robots that could aid the police in patrolling the streets. The police robot project however relies on human operators, rather than artificial intelligence. [via Gizmag]

by MacNN Staff



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