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Meet the robots at Reading: Introducing Baxter

Baxter is just one of the robots used for teaching at the University of Reading. Watch Professor Victor Becerra introduce Baxter in this video.
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My name is Victor Becerra. I am a professor in automatic control here in the School of Systems Engineering. My speciality is control systems, robotics, and artificial intelligence. Traditionally, robots were isolated from humans, often in a cage, in order to prevent accidents. Baxter has a number of safety features that enable it to be a collaborative robot. This is a robot that is able to collaborate with humans while it is performing a task. This is achieved both through the use of mechanical components, as well as software. For example, instead of having motors that directly dive the arms of the robot, there is a spring in between such that the motor drives the spring and then the spring drives the arms.
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This causes the arms to be compliant, and therefore to be safer in case of collisions. Secondly, the speed of the robot is limited. If there is a collision, the speed is low enough that the chances of injury are minimal. This year, we introduced a practical in the second year robotics module in which the students have the experience of working with Baxter to practise certain fundamental aspects of robotics, including, for example, motion control and path planning. Baxter was one way of getting students to learn about manipulator robotics. It is important for our students to be exposed to the different types of robots.
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We are starting to use Baxter for our research, in particular in the area of human-robot interaction, as well as visual servoing, which is a way of controlling motion using computer vision. So this is the start. We’re planning to use Baxter as well for research in autonomous systems, as well as in machine learning and some other areas as well.

Meet Baxter, one of the newer additions to the University of Reading.

Robots have been used in industry for many years. Early ones were employed in the car industry doing tasks such as welding. Others have been used picking objects on production lines. The Baxter Robot is a modern industrial robot capable of performing such relatively complex tasks, and here we illustrate the robot picking up golf balls and putting them in a box.

This sounds easy – after all if we want to pick something up, we just look to see where it is and move our hands accordingly. For a computer to do so, it needs a complicated program – using a variety of techniques including image processing, edge detection, etc…

The key point is that in order to pick up the balls, the gripper at the end of the robot arm has to be in the right place. Hence the robot has to be able to detect where the balls are – which it does using a camera at the end of its arm. If the gripper is above a ball, fine, but if the ball is to the left then the gripper should be moved to its right.

Let’s watch this in action.

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