It's not easy to find research in the field of robotics without military applications (or military funding), and Brown University's latest is certainly no exception. Starting out with iRobot's PackBot (and some pocket change from DARPA and the Office of Naval Intelligence) researchers at the school have achieved several advances that will someday produce robots that follow both verbal and nonverbal commands from a human operator, indoors and out, without the need for a controlled environment or special clothing. The goal, according to Chad Jenkins, is to develop a robot that acts "like a partner. You don't want to puppeteer the robot. You supervise it, 'Here's your job. Now, go do it.'" The work is being presented this week at the Human-Robot Interaction conference in San Diego, but if you can't make it we've provided a video of the thing in action just for you (after the break). We for one salute our autonomous robot overlords.

[Via PhysOrg]