New RFID Technology Helps Robots Locate Household Objects Like Medicines

Many of today's robots see the world with cameras and lasers, which can have difficulty reliably recognizing things and miss objects hidden in clutter. A complementary way robots can sense what is around them is through the use of small ultra-high frequency radio-frequency identification (UHF RFID) tags. Inexpensive self-adhesive tags can be stuck on objects, allowing an RFID-equipped robot to search a room for the correct tag's signal, even when the object is hidden. Once the tag is detected, the robot knows the object it's trying to find isn't far away. Now, Georgia Tech researchers have developed a search algorithm that improves a robot's ability to find and navigate to tagged objects. They have successfully implemented their system on a PR2 robot along with with articulated, directionally sensitive antennas - allowing it to travel through a home and correctly locate different types of tagged household objects. The research has implications for future home robots and is particularly compelling for applications such as helping people with medicine.