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This robot scoops poop

A PR2 personal robot has been programmed to scoop poop.

Willow Garage's PR2 personal robots are cool, but it's easy to understand — in this economy — why everyone hasn't plunked down $400,000 for one to make sausages, bake cookies, fold laundry and fetch beer, as the robots have been programmed to do.

After all, those chores are fairly simple for most of us to perform and sometimes even enjoyable.


But here's a use for a PR2 that could reel in buyers: robotics researchers at the University of Pennsylvania programmed their PR2 named Graspy to scoop poop. Really. It identifies items that look like feces (based on color), scoots over to them and picks them up with a scooper. There's video proof! (See above.)

And just to make sure there's no confusion on what the robot was programmed to do, the researchers named their project "Perception Of Offensive Products and Sensorized Control Of Object Pickup" so they could use the acronym POOP SCOOP.

"The purpose of this research is for the PR2 to clear poop out of an open field," GRASP lab member Ben Cohen, explains in the video.

Graspy achieved a 95 percent success rate, scooping more than one poop per minute. More work needs to be done to get the robot scooping like a pro, notes IEEE Spectrum. For example, it is currently able to handle only high-fiber poop.

If you'd like to turn your PR2 into a scooper of poop — and perhaps improve on its performance — you can check out instructions on the lab's wiki page.

More stories on PR2 robots:


The research on POOP SCOOP was presented at IROS 2011. Hap tip to IEEE Spectrum and Pop Sci.

John Roach is a contributing writer for msnbc.com.

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