Korean robot maid upgraded to do laundry, use microwave

Summary:Korean scientists have created a domestic robot that cleans, dumps clothes in the washing machine and even heats food in the microwave.

The prospect of a future that includes robot maids took an incremental step forward to reality. Korean scientists have created a domestic robot that cleans, dumps clothes in the washing machine and even heats food in the microwave. Just don't expect it to do any of that speedily.

Standing over 4 feet tall and weighing 122 pounds, Mahru-Z (to the right in the image) has a human-like body including a rotating head, arms, legs and six fingers and is capable of "seeing'' three dimensional objects and can recognize people and jobs that need to be done. It has the dexterity, for instance, to pick up a dirty shirt, throw it into a washing machine and push the buttons to get the laundry done, according to the engineers who developed it at the Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST).

"The most distinctive strength of Mahru-Z is its visual ability to observe objects, recognize the tasks needed to be completed, and execute them,'' said You Bum-jae, who heads the cognitive robot center at KIST. "Another strength of Mahru-Z is that it is autonomous, as it can navigate rooms unattended using its visual sensors, and pick things up on the way.''

The mechanical maid is an improvement over fellow robot, Marhu-M, an earlier KIST creation that moves on wheels, but both can work together via a remote control through a computer server. For example, Mahru-Z can put fruit in a basket and put it on the dinner table, while Mahru-M, which has the advantage in mobility, can locate the owner and bring him the fruits directly.

Similar machines have been created elsewhere, with many of the efforts coming from Japan. But You Bum-jae claims that Mahru-Z is the most advanced domestic robot yet in terms of mimicking human movement. But it will take along time he says before the robot can be mass produced for commercial use.

And aside from household chores, Mahru-Z can also be used in conditions too difficult or dangerous for humans, such as in space, according to You.

KIST spends around 4 billion won (about $3.5 million) per year for research on "cognitive humanoid'' robots, according to an article from The Korea Times.

Video courtesy of Engadget:

Topics: Innovation


Christopher Jablonski is a freelance technology writer. Previously, he held research analyst positions in the IT industry and was the manager of marketing editorial at CBS Interactive. He's been contributing to ZDNet since 2003. Christopher received a bachelor's degree in business administration from the University of Illinois at U... Full Bio

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