Robots are going to do many things for us in the future. They can even be taught to dress people. Scientists from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) have come up with a robot-assisted dressing system for people with disabilities. Their algorithm helps robots find the best motion plans to safely dress a human. As they explain:
To provide a theoretical guarantee of human safety, the team’s algorithm reasons about the uncertainty in the human model. Instead of having a single, default model where the robot only understands one potential reaction, the team gave the machine an understanding of many possible models, to more closely mimic how a human can understand other humans. As the robot gathers more data, it will reduce uncertainty and refine those models. To resolve the freezing robot problem, the team redefined safety for human-aware motion planners as either collision avoidance or safe impact in the event of a collision. Often, especially in robot-assisted tasks of activities of daily living, collisions cannot be fully avoided. This allowed the robot to make non-harmful contact with the human to make progress, so long as the robot’s impact on the human is low. With this two-pronged definition of safety, the robot could safely complete the dressing task in a shorter period of time.