The National Science Foundation Funds Energid Technologies To Enable Widespread Robotic Grasping

Cambridge, Massachusetts (March 31, 2009) — The National Science Foundation has funded Energid Technologies Corporation to develop a new approach to robotic grasping. Energid will develop a practical, reusable tool to allow robots to manipulate real-world objects.Today’s robots can manipulate objects in highly structured environments, such as factory settings, but typically perform poorly in uncertain environments where the objects to be manipulated and the surroundings are less well understood. Yet manipulation like this in uncertain environments is needed by the next generation of robots that will support humans outdoors, in the home, and in ordinary workplaces. To meet this need, Energid Technologies is developing a reusable software tool that can be applied to a variety of robotic systems to enable practical grasping and manipulation of a large number of types of objects that need not be known in advance. This tool will work quickly, be easily configured, and rapidly applied.

“The system we are developing works with one or two hands, and is able to grasp things that are fixed ormoving in complex environments”, said Ying Li, the Principal Investigator on the project at Energid Technologies. “Think of a robot picking an orange swinging in the wind or catching a coffee cup as it falls off a table.” The system will use a database of grasping algorithms to select the best approach for each object type and tailor the grasp to the environment, which may include blocked angles of approach and fragile obstacles. The objects to be grasped can be hard like a coffee cup, softlike a cucumber, or articulated like a pair of scissors. The creation of novel software for constructing this database is a key part of the project. The result of the project will be a software toolkit that can be applied to virtually any robotic hardware by any roboticist or developer.

“Energid is building on its commercial Actin robot control and simulation toolkit to make this happen”, said Justin Keesling, a Senior Software Engineer working on the project. “We are building a system that is not just highly effective, but also easy to apply.”