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Cleaning Bot Operators Get Censored View of Your Home

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Robo room service.

Household cleaning robots may soon be controlled remotely via the Internet, with the video feed blurred to protect homeowners' privacy.

Credit: Max Aguilera-Hellweg

In the near future, it may be possible that household cleaning robots will be remotely controlled via the Internet, and they would ensure privacy by blurring the video feed, suggests University of Washington in Seattle professor Maya Cakmak.

Willow Garage plans to spin out the technology as a business, linking domestic robots to "digital immigrant" workers worldwide.

To test the system, Cakmak unveiled a PR2 robot in a private home in Arizona that featured digital filters in the robot's video feed. The most robust filter was an algorithm that pixelated parts of an image and added different colors to hide brands and logos. "It makes everything more abstract," Cakmak says. "Your house doesn't seem like your house anymore, it seems like any house." The filter also works for autonomous robots with cameras.

Oregon State University's Bill Smart is similarly studying telerobotic privacy. He built a system for unskilled remote operators to change bed sheets using a PR2, but instead of blurring the image, Smart lets homeowners specify three-dimensional areas to censor, such as a bedside table, where operators would see a black space. He also developed a mat that automatically erases anything placed on it, and a hat that makes the wearer invisible in the robot's video feed.

From New Scientist
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