Scanning plan aims to help robots in the home

Kinect scan The Kinect@home team have started scanning rooms and objects

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Humans are being asked to help robots recognise the multitude of objects found in the average home.

Swedish researchers are asking people to use their Xbox's Kinect sensor as a scanner to grab detailed 3D images of the stuff in their homes.

The Kinect@home project requires mass participation to accumulate many examples of common household objects.

The scans will build into a library of objects robots can consult as they navigate around homes.

Slow scan

PhD student Alper Aydemir who is working on the project said: "Factory floors can be custom built and the tools the robots will use can be known precisely in minute detail. This is not the case with everyday living spaces and objects."

While humans have no trouble recognising objects such as a tea mug even if it is a different colour, shape and size to those they have seen before, robots struggle to complete such a mundane task.

"One of the best ways for robots to accomplish all these tasks is to make them learn how to recognise a sofa, a chair, or a refrigerator by feeding them lots of data," Mr Aydemir told the BBC.

Rather than building up the database of objects by themselves, the team from the Center for Autonomous Systems at Sweden's Royal Institute of Technology have turned for help to the many people who have bought a Kinect game sensor for their Xbox console.

The Kinect sensor uses a combination of an infra-red sensor, camera and customised computer chip to spot and interpret the movements of gamers, letting them play without a traditional hand-held controller.

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Mr Aydemir, colleague Rasmus Goransson and project co-ordinator Prof Patric Jensfelt have created software that uses information captured by the infra-red camera, and collected via the Kinect@home webpage, to create scans of objects.

"This way, people get easy access to the ever improving state-of-the-art 3D modelling techniques for free and researchers gain insights as to what works and what doesn't by using the data," he said.

The project has only been running a few days and already 141 objects , including shoes, mugs and guitars, have been scanned.

Using the Kinect as a 3D scanner was as easy as making a video for YouTube, Mr Aydemir said.

Those wishing to get involved would need to install an add-on for their web browser, he said, and take a little care when scanning objects.

"When capturing data, one should move rather slowly and avoid big empty spaces," he said. "Aside from that, it's as easy as hitting a button on the recording page."

The trio are planning to make their data widely available for robot and computer-vision researchers.

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