Jonathan Weisz bio photo

Jonathan Weisz

PhD Candidate at Columbia University. Robotics Enthusiast. Beer snob.

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… to ask whether robot butlers are “on the horizon”.

In other words they wanted to do a new years fluff piece asserting that robot butlers are going to arrive now that we are officially in the year in which Marty McFly rides a hoverboard.



It makes for compelling theater. It was interesting to see the way that the interviewer interacted with Dr. Peter Allen (My mentor) to get the sound bites he wanted. He asked the same questions over and over, looking for a clear, predictive statement. Obviously, Dr. Allen doesn’t want to go on record with that kind of irresponsible prognostication, but that’s what makes good TV.

I was glad to get a cameo demoing my relatively unrelated work with the BCI device. I wish the camera had been focused more on my face and less on my slowly creeping bald spot, but at least I didn’t need any makeup.

I admire Dr. Allen’s resolve in sticking to the dissapointingly prosaic facts, even though our PR2 looks like Rosie …

PR2 Robot doing it's best Rosie impression

In spite of my labmate Yinxiao Li’s best efforts, I don’t think the “butler” model is the right way to think about the commercialization potential of the current generation of robots. You can see in that photo that the duster has been modified to let the gripper interact with it. Even in the DRC trials, some teams would replace the hands of the robot with specialized hands for individual tasks. We’re a long way away from a robot that can manipulate things in human environments that aren’t carefully instrumented to them.

But hey, if you’ve got twenty minutes and a well lit laundry room, Yinxiao can totally make the Baxter fold your clothes…