A UMan Robotic Arm


Researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst have developed a mobile robotic arm which can manipulate objects by 'seeing' its environment through a digital camera. This robotic arm, dubbed UMan, or UMass Mobile Manipulator, can 'approach unfamiliar objects, such as scissors, garden shears and jointed wooden toys — and learn how they work by pushing on them and observing how they change' — like a child discovering the world. As said the leading researcher, 'Mobile robots play an important role in many settings, including planetary exploration and manufacturing. Giving them the ability to manipulate objects will extend their use in medical care and household assistance.'

"UMan applying its knowledge about the kinematics of the tool to perform a task (create a right angle between the tool's links)."

This research project has been led at UMass Amherst Robotics and Biology Lab by Dubi (Dov) Katz, a doctoral student of computer science, and Oliver Brock, a professor of computer science. But the whole robotics group was involved in this project.

According to Katz, "UMan sits on a base with four wheels that allow it to move in any direction, and a system of lasers keeps it from bumping into objects by judging their distance from the base." He says that it was relatively easy to teach it how to walk.


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