Researcher Trains Giant Robot to Sit, Stay, and Beg

Madeline Gannon has tamed her industrial robot.

by Gabrielle Bruney
Dec 17 2015, 10:15pm

Gifs courtesy of Pier 9

Researcher Madeline Gannon is devoting her career to improving robot-human relations. Tensions are currently high, with humans increasingly peeved about robots taking over jobs that used to belong to us, and long-term fears about the human race being enslaved by machines ever on the rise. Doing her part to diffuse this long-standing tension, Gannon has developed a way to give industrial robots a tool which will definitely aid communication between the species: vision. “I wanted to build a system to give this robot eyes, so that it could actually see me, and we could safely collaborate in a shared space,” she says. She developed the project, called Quipt, during her residency at Autodesk's Pier 9 creative workshop in San Francisco. 

Watching Gannon interact with the robot—who can “see” with the aid of motion capture markers that the person interacting with it must hold or wear—is surprisingly cute. They move together in a careful dance, the robot responding to Gannon’s every motion. It’s like seeing someone play fetch with a tame but still pretty terrifying pet monster. Gannon is the Fay Wray to the robot’s King Kong, if Fay Wray were a boss robot-whispering PhD candidate. 

"The robot and I definitely had a strong bond by the end of the five-week project," writes Gannon. "With it fluidly moving and responding to my body language, it was hard to not relate to her as a living thing. At the same time you always have in the back of your head that this is a powerful, dangerous machine. And although I trust the quality of software I developed for interacting with it, you can't help but feel more like a lion tamer than a roboticist when you step into the same space."

To learn more about Quipt, click here


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Madeline Gannon
pier 9