Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University’s TechBridgeWorld Group Use Collaborative Robot Technology to Enhance Navigation in Urban Settings
Boston, August 25, 2015 – For the world’s 285 million people living blind or visually impaired, Rethink Robotics’ Baxter Research Robot can provide an avenue to a more accessible future. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University’s TechBridgeWorld are using Baxter to explore how technology – and specifically, robots – can help the blind and visually impaired more effectively navigate urban environments.
For people with sight, the necessary tasks associated with urban living – crossing the street, sorting bus tickets or finding the right storefront – are accomplished without a second thought. Innovations using collaborative robotics can make these tasks just as easy for the blind population.
“There are examples of technology causing divides in society, but it also has the potential to build bridges and serve communities, especially people who must alter behaviors due to disabilities,” said M. Bernardine Dias, founder and director of the TechBridgeWorld research group in CMU’s Robotics Institute. “We’re committed to help people overcome physical challenges by using the Baxter Research Robot to explore different real-life scenarios, and we’ve made great strides in helping the blind achieve greater levels of independence and empowerment.”
CMU researchers are experimenting with Baxter for several applications, with visions of a smart city future in mind. For example, to assist blind travelers Baxter is being used to provide vocal directions reinforced with physical directional gestures on the traveler’s hand. The robot can also help users select the correct bus ticket, a task that can be difficult when tickets to different destinations are physically identical in every way except for text and color. The research team is also making great inroads into multi-robot skill coordination, a scenario in which Baxter communicates with mobile robots to help guide travelers along their journeys.
“Collaborative robots like Baxter can effectively interact with humans in factories, but in the unstructured and variable urban environments that are home to millions of blind people, the complexity skyrockets,” said Scott Eckert, chief executive officer, Rethink Robotics. “Thanks to Baxter’s open source platform, human-like form and ability to interact directly with humans, the research team at Carnegie Mellon is helping to drive social change and improve the lives of millions.”
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About Rethink Robotics Rethink Robotics, Inc. has pioneered the category of collaborative robotics, providing manufacturers around the globe with uniquely flexible automation solutions through trainable, safe and cost-effective robots that can work alongside humans. Rethink Robotics’ Baxter and Sawyer robots, powered by the advanced Intera software platform, provide companies with a cost-effective means of automating repetitive, variable tasks across a wide range of industries and applications, including contract manufacturing, packaging, plastics, consumer goods, electronics, metalworking and more. With Rethink Robotics’ smart, collaborative robots, manufacturers can harness the power of both man and machine, increasing their flexibility, lowering costs and optimizing their workforce for a distinct competitive advantage.
Committed to accelerating robotics innovation in manufacturing and beyond, Rethink Robotics’ Baxter Research Robot gives academic and corporate research environments a humanoid robot platform with integrated sensors and an open software development kit for creating custom applications.
Based in Boston, the Rethink product suite is available in Asia, Europe and North America. The company is funded by Bezos Expeditions, Charles River Ventures, Highland Capital Partners, Sigma Partners, DFJ and Two Sigma Ventures. For more information about Rethink Robotics, please visit www.rethinkrobotics.com or follow us on Twitter at @RethinkRobotics.