Point, click and your robot arm is programed

The assistant robot programable with a few clicks. © Georgia Tech

Programing an assistant robot in two clicks is possible thanks to a team of the School of Interactive Computing from Georgia Tech University in the United-States. Having presented their research early March during a conference on the human-robot interaction (HRI) in Vienna in Austria, the student researchers have just put on line on Github their open source programing software.

In the midst of the assistant robot boom, interfaces to program them are not really accessible to everyone. The Georgia Tech team, under the direction of the robotics teacher Sonia Chernova, developed an interface for the general public. Using as a basis the traditional method, that uses a camera to model the countertop into a (3D) cloud of points on a computer screen. The user uses this virtual environment to move the six degrees of freedom of the arm (rotation and translation) with a mouse and to position the gripper of the robot. Once it is in position, it grips the objects or carries out a specific task. “We made the process shorter: instead of using a series of rotations, lowering, elevations, and supposing that the depth of field is correct to adjust the gripper, now only two clicks are enough,” explains Sonia Chernova. By eliminating all manual positioning that can be long and tedious for amateur users, the interface uses point and click.

The new interface presents a plan view of the countertop: the user points with the mouse to the object he wants to take hold of, the program will then determine a series of the best positions for the gripper. The user only has to decide to grip the body or the head of the object and the robot takes care of the rest. The students tested both methods (traditional and point and click) and noticed that the new system generated a lot less errors (on average, one error per task against four for the traditional method) and allowed participants to carry out tasks in a faster and more reliable manner.

Presentation of the point and click programing method from Georgia Tech:

More information on the point and click programing method from Georgia Tech

Access the code on Github and the documentation

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