Toyota trains its robots to wipe down tables while taking selfies

Transparent and reflective surfaces confuse robots, but Toyota has developed a solution.


Apparently, transparent and reflective surfaces are confusing for robots, and that's a problem companies designing machines for household chores need to overcome. Toyota has developed a solution for the issue and has released a video demonstrating its robot wiping down tables and other surfaces — all while taking the video itself.

As the company explains, "most robots are programmed to react to the objects and geometry in front of them" and can't differentiate between an actual object and its reflection. Something as common as a drinking glass or a shiny toaster could prevent robots made to work in homes from doing their tasks properly. Toyota says it overcame that problem by developing a novel training method that allows robots to "perceive the 3D geometry of the scene while also detecting objects and surfaces."

In the video, you'll see Toyota's robot seeing the 3D geometry of various elements in a house, allowing it to recognize all kinds off wipeable surfaces, like tables and counters. It can even detect transparent glasses and move them aside.

Max Bajracharya, vice president of robotics at TRI, said: "Training robots to understand how to operate in home environments poses special challenges because of the diversity and complexity of our homes where small tasks can add up to big challenges." Bajracharya's team aims to develop robotic capabilities to amplify human abilities, so that machines can help out people in an aging society. This development is a big step towards achieving that goal. You can watch Toyota's robot in action below: