This is your life


One of my favorite things about robotics hobbyists is that they’re always driven by one overwhelming goal: To create a robot that can serve them a beer. The closest we’ve come so far is the Androbot, sold back in the 80s, which came with an “Androfridge” attachment so that it could carry beers to you as you rot, senescent, on your barcalounger.

But now Brian Pietrodangelo, a student at the Univerity of Florida’s Machine Intelligence Laboratory, has created Koolio — a “travelling autonomous refrigerator robot”. Anyone at the Lab can order a drink online and Koolio will deliver it. This requires a terrific bouquet of navigation techniques, including:

- Sonar for accurate long distance coverage.

- IR for close obstacle avoidance.

- Shaft encoding for accurate navigation once location is determined.

- Web cameras for reading room numbers off the wall.

(Thanks to Slashdot for this one!)

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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