January 15, 2016
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The Verge is more honest about robotic tech than most tech magazines, and this gem is no exception.
The Roomba is a great example of a robot with appropriate tech for what it does. Relatively inexpensive, with limited programming and abbreviated sensors, it is a standard engineered robot.
However, it is not general-purpose – and the Atlas above strives to be so.
In my opinion, the problem is that the Atlas is too Roomba. It can do tasks, but in the video you can see the effort trying to deal with the vacuum. Why is that? It is because the Atlas, like the Roomba, is not sensor-dense. It (in all probability) can’t parse the noise of the vacuum to know if it is doing the job. A person, or even an animal trained to vacuum, would do so. For Robots That Jump, “sensor-dense” is the way to go. It runs contrary to the optimization ethic of many engineers – but the messy, sensor-dense approach that animals make is the one that lets them vacuum better than a Roomba. Think starfish instead of mammal.