Penn students teaching robots to do our dirtiest work

    All those novelty bots that vacuum up crumbs and bring you a cold drink are great, but they’re not exactly doing the work you really dread.

    A group of Penn students is bypassing the neat-o factor and getting right down to business, no pun intended. A team at the university’s General Robotics, Automation, Sensing and Perception lab has taught a robot to scoop poop.

    PR2 robot Graspy can already read, as we learned in the Spring when Health & Science reporter Carolyn Beeler paid a visit to the GRASP lab. Now the work of five determined students has the bot learning something a little more physical. The robot is picking up droppings with a 95 percent success rate. GRASP student Ben Cohen even went to San Francisco to show off the possible future of robotics.

    “This project was a week-long project from the summer in which four friends and I got the PR2 robot to autonomously scoop poop,” Cohen explained. “Mankind wants robots to do all of our menial tasks that we don’t want to do. I think scooping poop is the perfect task for my future robot at home.”

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