Engineers at Willow Garage have proven some time ago that their PR2 robot can be a full-fledged companion of the weekend by playing billiards, bringing beer from the fridge and even cleaning up the room after a party. However, researchers at the University of California, Berkeley (USA) have taught this machine another, but no less practical, task.
Turns out, PR2 can be a great helper during the “slower” days of the week as well. For example, he can pair pairs of washed socks perfectly. Using simple repetitive motions, the robot is able to translate socks with the right side and place them one on top of the other for storage in the closet.
Pairing socks is, of course, a much more difficult challenge than simply folding a towel or other non-simple textile. When a robot is provided with two socks, it must first determine whether they are equally spaced and that both are translated correctly (not to mention whether they are of the same species at all). So the mechanism first aligns them properly, then finds the right pickup points and then starts working. The video below is accelerated 15 times – probably anyone would do it faster.