In recent years, robots have gained artificial vision, touch, and even smell. "Researchers have been giving robots human-like perception," says MIT Associate Professor Fadel Adib. In a new paper, Adib's team is pushing the technology a step further. "We're trying to give robots superhuman perception," he says. The researchers have developed a robot that uses radio waves, which can pass through walls, to sense occluded objects.
MIT researchers developed a picking robot that combines vision with radio frequency (RF) sensing to find and grasps objects, even if they're hidden from view. The technology could aid fulfilment in e-commerce warehouses. System uses penetrative radio frequency to pinpoint items, even when they're hidden from view. In recent years, robots have gained artificial vision, touch, and even smell. "Researchers have been giving robots human-like perception," says MIT Associate Professor Fadel Adib.
We present the design, implementation, and evaluation of RF-Grasp, a robotic system that can grasp fully-occluded objects in unknown and unstructured environments. Unlike prior systems that are constrained by the line-of-sight perception of vision and infrared sensors, RF-Grasp employs RF (Radio Frequency) perception to identify and locate target objects through occlusions, and perform efficient exploration and complex manipulation tasks in non-line-of-sight settings. RF-Grasp relies on an eye-in-hand camera and batteryless RFID tags attached to objects of interest. It introduces two main innovations: (1) an RF-visual servoing controller that uses the RFID's location to selectively explore the environment and plan an efficient trajectory toward an occluded target, and (2) an RF-visual deep reinforcement learning network that can learn and execute efficient, complex policies for decluttering and grasping. We implemented and evaluated an end-to-end physical prototype of RF-Grasp and a state-of-the-art baseline. We demonstrate it improves success rate and efficiency by up to 40-50% in cluttered settings. We also demonstrate RF-Grasp in novel tasks such mechanical search of fully-occluded objects behind obstacles, opening up new possibilities for robotic manipulation.
MIT researchers have developed a robot that can detect and grab objects that are hidden behind walls or pieces of clutter. The system, called RF-Grasp, uses radio waves to locate items beyond the line-of-sight of a robot's cameras. It could help warehouse robots grab customer orders or tools that are occluded behind obstacles. If an object is concealed, they typically need to explore the environment and search for the item. Unlike visible light and infrared, RF (radio frequency) signals can traverse cardboard boxes, wooden walls, plastic covers, and colored glass to perceive objects fitted with RFID tags.
This is a guest post. The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not represent positions of IEEE Spectrum or the IEEE. The simple task of picking something up is not as easy as it seems. Roboticists aim to develop a robot that can pick up anything--but today most robots perform "blind grasping," where they're dedicated to picking up an object from the same location every time. If anything changes, such as the shape, texture, or location of the object, the robot won't know how to respond, and the grasp attempt will most likely fail.