MIT’s robotic maid puts away the dishes

Posted by Humphrey Cheung

Cambridge (MA) - Elderly and disabled people could soon get help from a robotic maid developed by MIT.  Researchers at the prestigious university have been working on Domo, a robot that can fetch and return items to tables and shelves by following basic verbal commands.

Domo somewhat resembles the famous “Johnny-Five” robot from the Short Circuit movie.  The robot can detect motion, distance and even human faces through two large eyes.  Data from the eyes are fed into twelve computers.

Domo’s eyes and computers is trained to recognize human faces and unexpected motion.  It also understands basic commands to fetch and place household items.  Like a child, Domo will reach out with the left hand to judge distance and then grab the item with its right hand.

Aaron Edsinger is an MIT postdoctoral associate and has been working on Domo for three years.  Edsinger promises that Domo and future robots could help the disabled in daily chores.  He adds the future of robotics lies in doing regular tasks.  “The real potential of robots in the future is going to be realized when they can do many types of manual tasks,” said Edsinger.

Typical robots, like those found on assembly lines, have limited actions and follow an unchangeable script.  Consumer robots like the vacuuming Roomba can roam the house, but don’t do much more than clean the floor.

The project was originally funded by NASA, but is now supported by Toyota.  The aging population of Japan and most of Asia are keenly interested in robotics and are considered to be at the cutting edge of robotics research.  Shopping malls in South Korea and Japan are already using robot guides.  Samsung has even developed a robot to keep an eye on the South-North Korean border demilitarized zone.

You can read more about Domo in MIT’s press release .