Engineers teach $400,000 robot to autonomously clean up turds

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania's GRASP Lab have taught Willow Garage's PR2 robot to identify feces based on color, confront the offending substances, and dispose of them in a state-of-the-art plastic bucket. And judging from this video, UPenn gave GRASP a blank check for their fake excrement budget.

It takes the robot 12 minutes to autonomously clean up a room that's been carpet-bombed with 20 fecal specimens. Of course, GRASP lab's demonstration makes some dire assumptions about the future of sanitation.

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If and when the poop-scooping PR2 is deployed in public, chances are it will be cleaning stray piles of canine leavings. In GRASP's video, the room has seemingly been occupied by a pack of unruly timber wolves. In the future, will our planet be knee-deep in lupine egesta?

Furthermore — as my colleague Stephen Totilo of Kotaku hypothesized upon observing this video — will the PR2 usher in the end of human scatological responsibility? Indeed, the future is shaping up to be an extremely dark place.

[Via IEEE Spectrum]

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