Imagine a future with millions of robots worldwide making friends, keeping in contact with each other and sharing information together? Maybe a robot-only petabyte or two of Wall photos, Timeline memories and special robot-to-robot chat. Information for aiding their owners, personal enrichment or advanced knowledge, like going to medical school. Hey, it?s all coming, and sooner than we think. Such worldly-wise robots might also be perfect targets for an advertiser?s pitch: ?Ten reasons why your owner should drive a Chevy.?
RBR?s Linda Rosencrance takes a peek at RoboEarth, the cloud-based database for robots.
Call it an Internet for robots.
A giant network and database where robots can share information and learn from each other about their behaviors and their environments, according to the RoboEarth project.
?The idea is to construct a database in respect to cloud robotics,? says Rob Janssen, a PhD in the RoboEarth project. ?The database will be running on a Cloud-based architecture and any computation we do on the database, or the data that we store there will be stored in a distributed manner.?
The usefulness of information in the cloud for a robot will be for data that can be gleaned asynchronously, not for time-sensitive information that a robot needs immediately, says Paul James, Director of Applications Software at Adept Technology Inc., where he directs the development of Adept?s suite of software products for deploying robots in industrial applications, including autonomous navigation software for Adept mobile robots.
?For example, for the robot to determine its current position in its local environment that?s not something that it?s going to rely on the cloud to do ? it?s going to move and interact immediately,? James says. ?But looking at a table and the object on the table and trying to decipher what they are ? there can be some time lag before the robot says, ?Oh there?s the cup I need to go and grab for my user.? It?s that kind of querying of information that can happen over the cloud.?
Janssen says the database created for RoboEarth will hold information on three different subjects: on the objects that a service robot might encounter while it?s performing a task; maps used for navigation; and localization.
The general idea is to allow robots on a global level to upload as well as download data. That means if one robot is programmed to perform a certain task, or is instructed as to what an object looks like ? for instance a bottle, or a door ? the robot could upload that information to the database, then other robots can download the information and use it in the execution of their tasks, Janssen explains.
?We?ve done a demo on a smaller scale, but the bigger concept would be that you would have one robot that gets instructed to serve a drink to a person in a hospital room, or monitor a patient in another room, or follow that patient, or anything that a robot could be used for in that hospital,? he says.
?Then this robot would need to make a map of that hospital environment, and it would be instructed how to perform this task, for instance what the drink is supposed to look like that it picks up.?
Then any other robot can be deployed directly without having to be pre-programmed, Janssen says. And the other robot can perform similar tasks, or at least benefit from the fact that the first robot made a map.
?So the other robots can use that map and they don?t have to search for the elevator or search for whatever anymore,? he says.
The notion behind RoboEarth is that the cloud is the source of knowledge for robots ? that robots together are contributing to a knowledge base and they can all query this knowledge base to find out what?s going on in the world, says Steve Cousins, CEO of Willow Garage, which develops hardware and open-source software for personal robotics applications.
?RoboEarth is understanding a wide of class of objects that occur in the world and then [figuring out] how you put them all on a map so you can navigate from one to the other if you?re a robot,? Cousins says, adding that cloud robotics is consistent with the trend in robotics toward open-source software and shared data.
As for when we might see real-world applications for RoboEarth?
?The way the development is progressing, the expectancy would be in 10 years there will be several of these robots deployed in office or hospital environments,? Janssen said. ?We would be able to convince industry with the progress we?ve made that it?s worthwhile to investigate [for] an industrial product. In 10 years I think that would be feasible.?Read More