Friday, July 30, 2021
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Santa’s Robot Elf Stuffs a Stocking

A new Christmas-themed robot video from the University of Bielefeld’s Center of Excellence Cognitive Interaction Institute is both entertaining and enlightening. The video shows a pair of robotic arms slowly stuffing a stocking, while the lyrics of the Christmas carol outline the challenges engineers face getting robots to perform such a seemingly simple task.

The robot must use its vision system to locate the stocking amongst a few small presents, then pick up the stocking up by one side and detect its floppy, easily deformed hem. To add to the challenge, the robot passes the stocking from one robotic hand to another. If hem detection isn’t stable, the second arm will likely miss and grab at air.

Now comes the real challenge: picking up a small piece of candy and putting it into the stocking. The first attempt to picks up candy fails, and the candy falls back into the basket. Fortunately, this robot is equipped with tactile sensors in the fingers, so it’s well aware it needs to try again. Ultimately, the robot gets a few candies into the stocking. More importantly, it reminds us all that we’re still a few years out from really needing to worry about robot domination.