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It's the Great PumpkinBot, Charlie Brown
November 03, 2011

For Halloween, the CORAL Lab’s CoBot2 robot donned a pumpkin costume to deliver candy bars to 300 delighted denizens of floors 6-8 of the Gates and Hillman centers, stopping at open doors and saying “Knock knock” outside closed doors.

For CoBot, which has been running errands for people in the GHC for more than a month, assuming the role of Great PumpkinBot represented a new technical challenge, said Manuela Veloso, professor of computer science.

As ever, CoBot negotiated the hallways and elevators autonomously, asking people for assistance when it recognized it needed help. This “symbiotic autonomy,” the concept of robots collaborating with humans to accomplish tasks, is a major advance, Veloso said. In Halloween mode, however, CoBot wasn’t following explicit instructions – such as, deliver item A from here to there. Instead, it had to figure out a delivery route, determine which doors were open and, as it made repeat trips, remember which offices it had missed on previous trips.

CoBots 1 and 2 continue to be available for errands and other tasks, though Veloso cautions that the hours they are available are irregular. To sign up or to schedule a task, visit http://neontetra.coral.cs.cmu.edu/cobot. In the past year, the robots have logged about 80 autonomous miles as they have traversed the GHC corridors, Veloso said.

About a dozen faculty, post-docs, and students work on the CoBot project, Veloso said. Max Korein, a PhD student in robotics, created the Halloween all-room visiting algorithm. Other students playing major roles include Joydeep Biswas, a robotics PhD student who works on autonomous robot localization and navigation, including Kinect-based vision, obstacle avoidance, open-door detection; Brian Coltin, also a robotics PhD student, who works on multi-task planning and scheduling and web-based user task scheduling; and Stephanie Rosenthal, a PhD student in computer science, who works on symbiotic human-robot interaction.


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