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Robot Butler Can Open Doors, Talk, and Separate Oreos

A robot setting the dinner table.

The Home Exploring Robot Butler (HERB) developed at Carnegie Mellon University's Personal Robotics Lab has skill that are generalizable across robots.

Credit: Allegra Boverman and Christine Daniloff/MIT

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University's (CMU) Personal Robotics Lab have developed the Home Exploring Robot Butler (HERB).

"The focus is on complicated manipulation tasks with a lot of uncertainty and a lot of clutter," says lab director Siddhartha Srinivasa, a professor in CMU's Robotics Institute. "We’re trying to get robots like HERB to move from the factory floor to homes so they can perform useful tasks that a caregiver would perform."

HERB was originally developed after Nabisco approached the institute about developing an Oreo-separating robot for an advertising campaign. The researchers had to adapt and improve several algorithms in order to get HERB to have the dexterity to separate an Oreo cookie from the creme. However, these same tools could be useful in completing other tasks in the future.

"HERB can get a meal out of the fridge, microwave food, clean up after a mess, and separate an Oreo," Srinivasa says. "The underlying algorithms are the same across all these tasks and are even generalizable across robots."

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