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Researchers create human-sized robot that reads

Graspy in action
University of Pennysylvania
Graspy in action
University of Pennysylvania

A life-sized robot has learned to read notice boards and signs.

Working with a PR2 robot from WillowGarage, computer scientists at the University of Pennsylvania's GRASP Lab pulled off this remarkable feat, which is recounted in the video below. How big a deal all this is remains in the eye of the beholder. To be sure, other robotic devices have displayed the ability to read, and even account for misspellings before coming up with the correct pronunciation. (Just last year, in fact, researchers in the UK and Australia, showed off one such lab prototype.)

But let's not get too jaded. What's important here is that the Penn team successfully added the capacity for reading comprehension to an existing robot, one which had been originally built to perform myriad other tasks. Not the easiest of challenges to conquer.

In any event, we're still in the early stages of development and it will likely still be quite some time before a robot reaches the level of fluency of say, the B-9 from Lost in Space. ("Danger, Will Robinson, anybody?)

But give it time. The source code developed for "Graspy" is being donated to the a Robot Operating System library, an open source group, and thus will become available to other computer scientists and robot developers to build onto their creations.

The Penn team, which dubbed its reading robot "Graspy," said the amount of text that can be read at any one time is limited, though with time they hope it extends to longer texts.