Saatchi Synergize Content

Client: Ramsay 1 of 8 October

Website: Techno News

Title: MacGyver in robot form

Keywords: Popular science/ science news/ sci tech news/ mechanics

Remember MacGyver, the incredible secret agent who utilised normal household items in unbelievable and intelligent ways? Imagine if we could somehow fuse his brain with a robot’s body – instilling these vital skills and thereby allowing the robot to cleverly interact with its environment.

One of the major problems with today’s most advanced robots is that they cannot utilise their surroundings in the same sophisticated way a human would do. For example, if a robot was trapped within a burning room, it wouldn’t be able to cunningly employ the objects around it to assist in its escape.  This is all about to change however – the latest sci-tech news is buzzing about the innovative ‘MacGyver robot’ which takes intelligence to the next level.

Professor Mike Stilman at the Georgia Institute of Technology is leading the research team that aims to devise a way to enable robots to intelligently utilise their surrounding objects to fulfil high-level tasks. Funded by a three-year $900,000 grant from the US Office of Naval Research, the team was inspired by MacGyver’s ingenuity and aims to develop a robot with similar skills.

Stilman believes that the best way to instil these skills is to study the intricate cognitive processing systems that enable humans to innovatively employ tools to our advantage and create algorithms for robots that make them act in the same manner. Imagine a robot advanced enough to use tools – the idea has limitless potential.

The team is advancing research that Stilman has already conducted, that enables robots to utilise computerised vision systems to autonomously identify and then shift obstacles away from their programmed path from A to B. Stilmanhowever, explains that there is a  crucial difference between a robot merely moving an object and a robot utilising that object constructively.

Stilman aims to develop a sophisticated robot which can identify arbitrary articles in a room and then establish an object’s mechanical force properties and possible function, allowing it to then transform the object into a simple machine which can be employed to fulfil an action. To do this, the robot will need a basic knowledge of rigid body mechanics and simple machines – enter Stilman’s fellow researchers, Pat Langley and Dongkyu Choi.

ICARUS is Langley and Choi’s cognitive architecture system, which provides an infrastructure for modelling an assortment of human abilities, such as perception, performance, inference and learning in robots. Stilman believes that ‘a hybrid reasoning system that embeds physics-based algorithms within a cognitive architecture will create a more general, efficient and structured control system for our robot, which will accrue more benefits than simply using one approach.’

Once the hybrid reasoning system is constructed utilising computer stimulations, it will be tested on Golem Krang – Stilman’s humanoid robot, designed to study planning and control.

There’s been a number of exciting scientific advancements made recently – from Curiosity landing on Mars to visible dark matter.Popular science has long been advocating for complex robots that are able to act in a way similar to humans, utilising rational processing systems.  The MacGyver robot is a huge step forward and will be a tremendous asset to the Navy, as well as other industries.


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