Peek at 1998 Moravec book, Chapter 4

4: Universal Robots

Concept for a home vacuum-cleaning robot

Vacuuming under furniture Disgorging and charging Cleaning edges and corners A quick charge in the field

Dustbot: This concept for an automatic home vacuum cleaner of the near future senses its world with a triangle of tiny video cameras on each of four sides, thinks with a 1,000 MIPS computer, and moves omnidirectionally on three individually steered and driven wheels. About once per second, it stereoscopically measures the range of several thousand points in its vicinity, and combines them in a three-dimensional "evidence grid" map, as described in chapter 2. The grid gives the robot a spatial intelligence comparable to a very small lizard's, but more precise. Taken out of its box and activated in a new home, the robot memorizes its surroundings in 3D. Then, perhaps, it asks "when and how often should I clean this room, and what about the one beyond the door?" Its spatial comprehension should keep it doing its job and out of trouble for years at a stretch.

The pictures show the small robot 1) vacuuming under furniture, 2) regurgitating accumulated dust and recharging with retracted nozzle at a docking station, 3) cleaning room edges and corners, and 4) topping up its batteries at a handy socket, using the optional "field recharging arm."

Its increasingly intelligent descendents would expand the range of applications, until a truly universal robot appears. The universal robot will be to the physical world what a universal computer is to the information world.

Related Articles

Robots: Re-Evolving Mind, December 2000
Robot Evolution Talk, October 2000

Rise of the Robots, December 1999

Mass-market mobile utility robot development
(DARPA Mobile Autonomous Robot Software program support)
    Progress report 3 (Learning by coloring), June 20, 2000
    Progress report 2 (Image rectification), January 20, 2000
    Progress report 1 (Project overview), August 5, 1999
    proposal: Robust Navigation by Probabilistic Volumetric Sensing, January 1999
                abstract, December 1998

Robot Spatial Perception by Stereoscopic Vision and 3D Evidence Grids, September 1996

The Age of Robots, June 1993