7 Cool Things About Robots

A picture of a robot with the text, "Seven Cool Things About Robots"

7 Cool Things About Robots

In honor of National Robotics Week, we've put together a list of seven cool things robots can do
(or will be able to do in the near future).

They can go deep sea diving in Antarctica.

icefinMick West sits with Icefin, just before the robot was deployed the to the bottom of the ocean. (Photo: Jacob Buffo)

A team of scientists and engineers from the Georgia Institute of Technology assembled an unmanned, underwater vehicle on Antarctica.

two

They can beat you in Angry Birds, and then tutor you in math.

Darwin, the robot that can play Angry BirdsAyanna Howard is using this friendly robot to interact with children with disabilities. (Photo: Rob Felt)

With the help of a smart tablet and Angry Birds, children can now do something typically reserved for engineers and computer scientists: program a robot to learn new skills.

Ayanna Howard, who is the Motorola Foundation Professor in the Georgia Tech School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, has paired a small humanoid robot with an Android tablet. Kids teach it how to play Angry Birds, dragging their finger on the tablet to whiz the bird across the screen. When it’s the robot's turn, it mimics the child’s movements and plays the game. 

This National Science Foundation-sponsored work is designed to serve as a rehabilitation tool to help kids who need therapy for disabilities such as cerebral palsy.  

three

They can improvise a drum riff.

drummer with robotic arm
Atlanta Institute of Music and Media student Jason Barnes, a drummer who was electrocuted two years ago and lost his right arm below the elbow, demonstrates Georgia Tech Professor Gil Weinberg's robotic drumming prosthesis. (Photo: Rob Felt)

Professor Gil Weinberg has already built a band of robotic musicians in his Georgia Tech lab. Now he’s created a robot that can be attached to amputees, allowing its technology to be embedded into humans.

The robotic drumming prosthesis has motors that power two drumsticks. The first stick is controlled physically by the musician's arm and electronically using electromyography (EMG) muscle sensors. The other stick “listens” to the music being played and improvises.

four

They can clean your room.

Curi the robot and Andrea Thomaz
Andrea Thomaz with Curi, one of Georgia Tech's robots, who assists with research conducted in Thomaz's Socially Intelligent Machines Lab.

Helpful robots are more than wishful thinking — they are a major goal of Andrea Thomaz, an associate professor in interactive computing.

Thomaz is never alone in her College of Computing lab. Simon and Curi, with their big eyes and white faces, constantly peer over her shoulder, literally, as Thomaz and her students bring them to life. The robots can talk, listen, learn and react.

Thomaz specializes in human-robot interaction. She’s constantly thinking about ways to get machines safely into homes and offices in order to help people.    

five

They can take direction from other robots.

magnus egerstedt and his robots
Schlumberger Professor Magnus Egerstedt, a swarm robotics expert, organizes teams of robots to work together to solve complex tasks that individual robots cannot do. (Photo: Rob Felt)

Schlumberger Professor Magnus Egerstedt doesn’t work with a robot. He works with several. Someday he wants to work with millions, all at the same time.

Egerstedt is a swarm robotics expert who organizes teams of robots that can take direction from one another to solve dull, dangerous and repetitive tasks that people don't want to do, or should not be doing. For example, in the next five years, Egerstedt envisions swarms tractors in farm fields, being directed by a farmer and an iPad.

six

They can help stroke victims shave or scratch an annoying itch.

charlie kemp poses with assistive robot, pr2
The blue cover on the arm of this robot protects an array of sensors that help it reach through the clutter of a typical home to perform personal care tasks. Charlie Kemp programs the robot, seen here holding an electric shaver. (Photo: Rob Felt)
 

Charlie Kemp is giving robots common sense. And that’s good news for Californian Henry Evans.

Ten years ago, Evans suffered a stroke that left him with limited mobility. Over the past two years, he’s been working with Kemp, an associate professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University, to develop and test robots that can help him shave, adjust a blanket when he’s cold, and even scratch an annoying itch.

“We did things with the robots that I never could have imagined,” said Evans, who contacted Kemp after seeing him on a CNN broadcast about health care robots.

seven

They can bring manufacturing back to the United States.

Henrick christensen
Henrik Christensen, professor in the School of Interactive Computing and executive director of the Institute for Robotics & Intelligent Machines, stands in the shadow of the KUKA KR210 robot in the Food Processing building. (Photo: Rob Felt)

Kuka Chair of Robotics Henrik Christensen is one of the world’s leaders in the robotics industry.

He has no doubt that robots will have a huge impact in the future in manufacturing, transportation and health care. But not without his peers changing their mindset and the technology that they produce. 

In human-robot interaction, says Christensen, "It's not an 'either/or'" situation.