If you're reading this and you live on planet Earth in the Year of Our Lord 2017, there's a decent chance that you feel stressed and generally awful right now. Friend, I have what you need to chill out for at least a couple minutes: a robot that stacks rocks.
Yes, that is all it does. It picks up small rocks, and it puts them on top of each other. It is a good robot and I like it very much.
The robot was built by researchers at ETH Zurich and will be presented this week at the 2017 International Conference on Robotics and Automation in Singapore. Stacking easy-to-handle objects like blocks is pretty easy for robots to do now, but irregular shapes like rocks still present a challenge. Humans, by the way, are very good at this. Balancing rocks in Jenga-like stacks is a popular hobby, part pseudo-spiritual new age relaxation technique and part Dad Art.
The ETH Zurich team set their robot to the task by giving it 3D scans of the rocks it was about to stack so it could simulate the best way to place the object first, and then do it live using a camera and a robotic gripper. All in all, the robot manages to stack four rocks at a time. According to IEEE Spectrum, the idea is to give robots the skills they need to build structures out of whatever natural material is available to them, say, on Mars.
This robot also makes perfect sense for 2017, when so many of our friends and loved ones have gone fully new age. This robot just got a bunch of hanging plants. This robot buys healing crystals even though it doesn't really believe in all that. This robot won't shut up about how Enya is Actually Good even though everybody already knew that. This robot took up rock stacking and it kind of creeps you out because you saw The Blair Witch Project, but this robot says it calms them down, so whatever.
But, at the end of the day, this robot is really just chill as hell.
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