If any factory worker could program low-cost robots, then more factories could actually use robotics to increase worker productivity. This is because workers would be able to shift to taking on more varied and higher-level tasks, and factories could produce a greater variety of products. That's the idea behind a prototype smartphone app National Science Foundation-funded researchers have developed that allows a user to easily program any robot to perform a mundane activity, such as picking up parts from one area and delivering them to another. The setup could also take care of household chores -- no more plants dying because you forgot to water them. Using augmented reality, the app allows the user to either walk out where the robot should go to perform its tasks or draw out a workflow directly into real space. The app offers options for how those tasks can be performed, such as under a certain time limit, on repeat or after a machine has done its job. After programming, the user drops the phone into a dock attached to the robot. While the phone needs to be familiar with the type of robot it's "becoming" to perform tasks, the dock can be wirelessly connected to the robot's basic controls and motor. The phone is both the eyes and brain for the robot, controlling its navigation and tasks.
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