The Georgia Institute of Technology received a $900,000 grant from the Office of Naval Research to develop a robot that can use found objects to solve problems.
“Our goal is to develop a robot that behaves like MacGyver, the television character from the 1980s who solved complex problems and escaped dangerous situations by using everyday objects and materials he found at hand,” said Mike Stilman, an assistant professor in the School of Interactive Computing at Georgia Tech, reported Gizmag.com. “We want to understand the basic cognitive processes that allow humans to take advantage of arbitrary objects in their environments as tools. We will achieve this by designing algorithms for robots that make tasks that are impossible for a robot alone possible for a robot with tools.”
Researchers said they will design the robot to pick up objects and then determine what use that object may have as a tool. Such a development would represent a step forward in traditional robotics as robots typically possess limited artificial intelligence capabilities and must be preprogrammed to use built-in tools to solve problems. But the MacGyver robot would be able to enter disaster areas, find objects and decide how to best apply them to solve a problem such as crossing a ditch or prying open a door.
In addition to developing human-like cognitive decision-making capabilities, researchers will also need to develop a sense of touch for the robot so it can determine various properties of the objects it holds. The first step for the Georgia Tech team will be to develop software that can be tested in computer simulations. Once the software is deemed useable, researchers will test the software in Stilman's Golem Krang humanoid robot, which will be the foundation for the MacGyver robot. Watch the following video to learn more about the Golem Krang robot.