Tucked away in the labs at Carnegie Mellon University some of the most intriguing research in the world is taking place for service robots. HERB, short for Home Exploring Robot Butler, is currently a research robot, with the ambition of becoming a full-fledged service robot in the home. He is, so far, the culmination of nearly seven years worth of research and currently spends his time as part of the Quality of Life Technology Center in Pittsburgh, PA.
HERB already has some skills mastered like getting a meal out of the fridge, cooking it in the microwave, and then if necessary, cleaning up the mess left behind. Of course the most impressive but least useful is his skill set of separatingan Oreo cookie from its cream. A rather dull task, but the technology behind it is quite phenomenal and will serve as a basis for much more complicated tasks, like perhaps splitting that pill in half for medication or slicing up an apple. Doing small dexterous tasks is often a challenge for robots and his skillset increases, you won’t be so worried about HERB taking care of Grandma.
In the meantime when he is not learning new kitchen skills, he is working on his human robot interaction skill set. Even after HERB learns to cook up an entire meal, will humans be open to having him in our homes, and at how much do we want robots maintain their robotnes’ or cross the uncanny valley and become human like.