and Computer Vision
Building a human shell
An intelligent computer system can go a long
way in reducing human labour. But if such a system can be provided with a method
of actually interacting with the physical world, its usefulness is greatly increased.
Robotics gives AI the means to exhibit real-world intelligence by directly manipulating
their environment. That is, robotics gives the artificial mind a body.
An essential component of robotics has to
do with artificial sensory systems in general, and artificial vision in particular.
While it is true that robotics systems exist (including many successful industrial
robots) that have no sensory equipment (or very limited sensors) they tend to
be very brittle systems. They need to have their work area perfectly lit, with
no shadows or mess. They must have the parts needed in precisely the right position
and orientation, and if they are moved to a new location, they may require hours
of recalibration. If a system could be developed that could make sense out of
a visual scene it would greatly enhance the potential for robotics applications.
It is therefore not surprising that the study of artificial vision and robotics
The links gathered below fall into two categories.
The first deal with both computer vision and robotics, and discuss current research
in the areas (including their integration with each other). The second portion,
for interest's sake, includes links to some commercial attempts to bring robots
into the mainstream.
Vision Tutorial - This relatively brief tutorial discusses some of the
reasons that computer vision is such a sought-after research project, and
some of the difficulties that are encountered in attempting to create machines
that can do what a human does within weeks of its birth.
Vision at CMU - Students interested in Computer Vision, a large and difficult
section of AI, will find this page an excellent resource. It includes descriptions
of current research, software downloads (note, these are mostly concerned
with the highly technical problems of computer vision systems, and will not,
for the most part, be runnable on a normal PC) and several demos of computer
Resources - Chris Connolly has compiled a large list of resources, print
and multimedia, concerning the development and theory of robotics. Students
may find the Robot
Movies section of interest.
- Cog is arguably the most advanced AI/Robotics research program on the planet.
Being built at MIT, it is a robot that will, or so the researchers hope, see,
smell, touch, hear, move, even understand and emote like a regular person.
It's a very ambitious project, but they've already come a long way. To move
straight to a brief introduction, click
here, for a longer, PDF format overview, click
here (PDF files require Adobe's free Acrobat Reader software to read,
here to go to Adobe's site).
- The University of Western Australia's page has a large collection of interesting
material about robotics research. Perhaps most entertaining though, is the
telerobot, a real robot in their lab that Internet users can control through
their web page.
Soccer at the University of Ulm - the lofty long-term goal of this multi-disciplinary
project is to create a team of robots than can defeat humans. Carnegie Mellon
University also has a RoboSoccer
team , and both compete in the RoboCup,
the World Cup for robots.
- AIBO - AIBO,
the robotic dog, is the newest $2,000 craze. Created by Sony, this robot is
preprogrammed with a set of dog-like behaviours, as well as the ability to
learn some new things. While many will argue that it falls short of real AI,
the creation of a mass-produced, commercial-quality, entertainment robot is
very significant in itself.
- The Robot
Store - While AIBO is in a field of it's own in terms of quality and cuteness,
it is not the only commercially available robot by far. This site is in the
business of selling personal robots for convenience, hobbyists, or simple
Robonaut is NASA's first attempt to use a humanoid robot on space missions.
A large part of the very dangerous 'space walks' astronauts perform involves
positioning tools and setting up safety harnesses. By designing a robot with
human like appendages that can be controlled remotely, this risk is eliminated.
If successful, the robonaut could greatly reduce NASA's expenses for many
shuttle launches, since a team of robonauts could be sent up without the oxygen
and food requirements of a human crew.
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