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Posted : 2010-01-17 18:06
Updated : 2010-01-17 18:06

Robot Maid Combats Unclean Households


The 1.3-meter domestic robot, Mahru-Z, is the most advanced maid robot in terms of autonomy and mimicking human movement, according to its KIST creators.
By Kim Tong-hyung
Staff Reporter

Korean scientists have created a domestic robot that cleans up, dumps clothes in the washing machine and even heats food in the microwave.

The 1.3-meter, 55-kilogram ``Mahru-Z,'' an ``assistant'' robot developed by the Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST), has a human-like body with a rotating head, arms and legs, and is capable of ``seeing'' three dimensional objects and recognizing jobs that need to be done.

The robot, using its moving hands, elbows and six fingers, can pick up a dirty shirt, throw it into a washing machine and push the buttons to get the laundry done, KIST engineers said.

Mahru-Z could also work in tandem with its fellow maid robot, Marhu-M, an earlier KIST creation that moves on wheels, as both machines can be remote controlled through a computer server.

Mahru-Z, for example, can put fruit in a basket and put it on the dinner table, while Mahru-M, which has the advantage in mobility, can locate the owner and bring him the fruits directly.

``The most distinctive strength of Mahru-Z is its visual ability to observe objects, recognize the tasks needed to be completed, and execute them. It recognizes people, can turn on microwave ovens, washing machines and toasters, and also pick up sandwiches, cups and whatever else its senses as objects,'' said You Bum-jae, who heads the cognitive robot center at KIST.

``Another strength of Mahru-Z is that it is autonomous, as it can navigate rooms unattended using its visual sensors, and pick things up on the way.''

Although similar machines have been created elsewhere, with many of the efforts coming from Japan, You claims Mahru-Z is the most advanced domestic robot yet in terms of mimicking human movement.

Aside from household chores, Mahru-Z can also be used in conditions too difficult or dangerous for humans.

``The network capabilities of the robot makes it capable of doing jobs in areas that are dangerous, contaminated or previously unvisited, as every movement can be remote controlled,'' You said.

``In the future, these types of robots could be used for doing things in space, such as operating machinery on the moon, while its controller stays back on Earth.''

However, Mahru-Z won't be saving people from their tedious household chores any time soon, as KIST admits it will be a long time before the robot can be mass produced for commercial use.

The research on ``cognitive humanoid'' robots, designed to assist humans in a different number of jobs with an enhanced level of autonomy, is one of the key projects of KIST, which spends around 4 billion won (about $3.5 million) per year on such projects, You said.

thkim@koreatimes.co.kr

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