Collaborative robots, or CoBots, developed by Manuela Veloso and her Carnegie Mellon research team, have been running errands for occupants of the Gates and Hillman centers for more than two years. Now, they are the subject of a “Science Nation” video and special report by the National Science Foundation.
The robots operate autonomously, navigating their own way through the buildings as they deliver mail and messages, or guide visitors. But they also employ what Veloso, professor of computer science, calls “symbiotic autonomy,” in that they recognize their own limitations. Without arms, they must ask people for help pressing elevator buttons, opening doors and placing items in its delivery basket. They also can search the Internet for information that they lack.
The CoBots move on an omnidirectional base, ask questions using a synthesized voice and accept input from people through a touchscreen interface. Gates and Hillman center occupants can schedule tasks for CoBot through a special web site.