Man Brushes Pet Cat with a Robot's Touch
Taylor Veltrop controls his Nao robot to brush his pet cat.
CREDIT: Taylor Veltrop
Taylor Veltrop needed to become his robot avatar. He switched on a head mounted display so that he could see through the robot's eyes, picked up a Wii video game remote to control the robot's arms, and stepped onto a treadmill so that Microsoft's Kinect could translate his walking strides into the robot's own careful stepping motions.
Finally, he was ready to go brush his cat.
The cat-petting experiment shown in a new YouTube video may prove much more than just an amusing demonstration of human-robot-feline interaction. It showed how the dream of humans controlling another body whether a robot or a cat-like Na'vi of "Avatar" can become a reality by simply using a classroom robot and commercially-available gaming technologies.
Veltrop has been working with Aldebaran Robotics' Nao robot for over a year to try making the robot's movements mirror his own. He hacked the motion-detecting technology of Microsoft's Kinect sensor for the Xbox 360 game console and Nintendo's Wiimote in his latest demonstration showcased by PopSci and other tech blogs.
The robot avatar's attempt to brush the cat proved successful on second try, but only after Veltrop and his helper figured out that they should flip the brush "180 degrees from the intuitive direction" in the robot's hand.
Next up, Veltrop wants to add hearing and speaking features for his robot. Presumably that should make it easier for the cat to hear his croons of "good kitty" and "Oh, did I just punch him in the head?"
Perfecting human control over robots could also lead to long-distance surgery on space satellites and astronauts directing their space robot counterparts during difficult and dangerous spacewalks. But for now, plenty of people can get a kick out of seeing the robot perform one of the most mundane and human of tasks.