Robots have always been in the research benches, as we try to figure out the best way in using their abilities and in the process figure out how to build them in order to suit our needs. Not long ago, Google has also bought Boston Dynamics for their robotics development, and now it seems that even the supermarkets are going to get one.
Researchers at Cornell University are developing a robot to be used as a cashier in supermarkets all around the world. It’s name is PR2, or Baxter as a more common name, and it is currently learning how to handle different product categories you normally find in supermarkets. What makes Baxter different from, let’s say robots found in factories, is that he is quite smart. And getting even smarter each day, thanks to researchers who are working on teaching him how to handle and anticipate human behaviour.
What he is being taught is handling dangerous items, such as kitchen knives, not to harm anyone when manoeuvring them around. As well, he is taught how to handle fragile objects, such as eggs, so as not to break them. When Baxter makes a mistake, his arm is corrected and pointed in a direction more suitable for moving the object around and not poking or stabbing anyone with it.
The researchers at Cornell University are using anticipation to teach Baxter how to do and interact with things. For a human, anticipation comes naturally, but for robots, it takes a load of calculations and process power. The result had a 75% success rate for Baxter to anticipate human interaction for the first 3 seconds, but the success rate dropped drastically if prolonged longer than 3 seconds.
The researchers predict that in two years, we will have robots working in supermarkets, having the robot researching prices drop year after year. The current cost of the PR2 robot is around $300,000 for each unit.