Video Shows Toilet-Cleaning Robot That Also Wants to Serve You Beer

Robots aren’t only here to automate the most mundane tasks in the home, they’re also here to pitch in on the icky tasks, too. Take the case of TIAGo, demonstrated last month at the five-day World Robot Summit in Tokyo, which is a versatile machine capable of cleaning the toilet to a (relatively) high standard. Unlike other purpose-built bots, the TIAGo is also suitable for other tasks like serving beer — assuming it washes its hands first.

“The target was to demonstrate the possibility of using a general-purpose mobile robot to solve this task,” Raphael Memmesheimer, leader of the team behind the bot, tells Inverse. “I personally see such robots that are targeting to solve not just one specialized task available to customers in a distant future, because they will not be that affordable. However for commercial purposes like in shopping centers, airport or restaurants they might come sooner.”

Memmesheimer is part of Team Homer, a vision research-focused group working as part of the Institute of Computational Visualistics of the University of Koblenz-Landau in Germany. The group faced off against a number of challenges, showing how TIAGo could achieve tasks like stocking items in a warehouse or assisting customers, similar to SoftBank’s Pepper bot.

The video shows TIAGo undertaking a test run prior to the main event. During the full run, the organizers placed one empty tube of toilet roll and several pieces of paper to put the bot through its paces. They also used a peeing boy statue to release 300 milliliters of fluid into the toilet, on the rim and onto the ground:

The test subject.Uni-Koblenz

The bot detects the toilet seat, collecting RGB-Depth data, before moving a sponge around the seat. It then used the sponge claws to collect up the paper, using an approach called Mask-RCNN segmentation. Unfortunately, while the rim itself cleaned well, the bot twisted the grippers at the start and struggled to later pick up pieces of paper. The demonstrators claim it hit a cleaning rate of 30 percent, “comparable to the average infrastructure installations.”

“There is also a lot to improve in terms of efficiency and cleaning quality,” Memmesheimer admits.

Viewers on YouTube were somewhat less charitable. One user called “Viola” wrote that “my boss would fire the robot with that cleaning.”

Related video: Pepper, a Humanoid Robot That Might Be Coming to a Business Near You

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