This machine can be operated remotely through augmented reality.
BY SHI EN KIM
When I dig, you dig—a robotic excavator follows the motions of a remote user to execute digging from afar.
Digging in the dirt is tough business. An excavator will speed up the work, but operating one is tricky and requires years of experience. One that is operable remotely, and comes with an augmented reality system, could make the process easier, more convenient, safer—and, perhaps, more fun.
“We have made a system that can take someone with no real skills of excavation and make them into an expert operator, way sooner than would normally be possible,” says Reuben Brewer, a roboticist who led the project. His team at SRI International, a non-profit research institute headquartered in California, has transformed an unwieldy excavator into a smart one with a gamified feel.
Traditional excavators have non-intuitive controllers. To move the scooper up and down, the operator needs to execute a right-left motion on the joysticks and levers from within the vehicle. “There’re so many joints, and they don’t really map up in the right direction,” says Brewer. “It gets so confusing.” Operators also need intensive training to learn how to dodge buried gas lines, water lines, and internet cables to make precise holes in the ground.
So, the researchers at SRI International have given excavators a robotification upgrade. Their smart digger can now be operated with more intuitive controls, and the operator does not even need to be in the driver’s seat. Users can perform maneuvers on these excavators right next to the vehicle, if they wish, or they can manipulate the machinery from the comfort of home or anywhere around the world, as long as they are connected to the internet.
Continue reading… “Controlling this robotic excavator is like playing a video game”