Get ready for knife-wielding robot grocery clerks

Now that's a knife: Baxter wields a blade in this Cornell demo.

(Credit: Video screenshot by Tim Hornyak/CNET)

I’ve said before that certain experiments are a veritable cri de coeur for an Ig Nobel prize, the awards that honor silly but thoughtful science.

Well, Cornell University graduate student Ashesh Jain and colleagues should be in the running for their bold attempts to teach robotic grocery store clerks of the future how to handle knives so they don’t terrify human customers.

Their study, “Learning Trajectory Preferences for Manipulators via Iterative Improvement,” sounds innocuous enough until you see the humanoid robot with a large blade in its gripper. This takes robot-knife experiments to a new level.

Rethink Robotics’ Baxter assembly robot was designed to work in close quarters with humans, but as seen in the demo below, its knife gets a little too close for comfort.

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