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New Social Robot Learns Moving in Crowded Places | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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SoftBank’s human-like robot named ‘Pepper’ poses for pictures in its role as a PR manager of Tottori prefecture at the prefecture speciality store in Tokyo, Japan, July 1, 2015. Pepper will work at the store until July 2, as the first workplace venue for its temporary staffing service. REUTERS/Yuya Shino

San Francisco, London- A team of researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) developed a new programmed robot that respects social manners regulating pedestrians’ movements.

The new robot will overtake on the left or right, allowing people to pass, depending on the country it’s in.

The “Sciencealert” website reported that the robot uses a suite of cameras and laser sensors, allowing it to recognize humans and stay out of their way, without slowing down the flow of people walking around it.

Lead researcher Yu Fan Chen says: “Socially aware navigation is a central capability for mobile robots operating in environments that require frequent interactions with pedestrians,” he also noted that small robots could operate on sidewalks for package and food delivery.

Similarly, personal mobility devices could transport people in large, crowded spaces, such as shopping malls, airports, and hospitals.

Getting the right balance between speed and safety is difficult, say the researchers: using existing systems, robots either spend too long sat still trying to calculate a path between the forest of moving legs, or can’t react quickly enough when people change direction.

To overcome the problem, the team used a type of machine learning called reinforcement learning, where systems are trained through trial and error and interactions with their environment, rather than a set of specific commands.

The system on board the robot can assess its environment and adjust its path every tenth of a second, without stopping to reprogram itself each time.

In fact it can maintain a ‘walking speed’ of 1.2 meters per second.