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A robot with superpowers

MIT researchers have built a robot that can locate hidden objects through walls or packaging. To do this, it uses radio waves. In the future, this could simplify logistics in warehouses, for example.

In recent years, robots have gained artificial vision, a sense of touch and even a sense of smell. "Researchers have given robots human-like perception," says Fadel Adib, associate professor at U.S. MIT University. In a new paper, Adib's team takes the technology a step further. "We're trying to give robots superhuman-like perception," he says.

The researchers have developed a robot that uses radio waves that can pass through walls to detect hidden objects. The robot, called RF-Grasp, combines this powerful sensing technology with conventional computer vision to locate and grasp objects that might not otherwise be seen.

The robot can even declutter

This advance could one day make it easier to handle e-commerce in warehouses, for example: That's because robots can't use optical vision alone to tell whether an item is packed in a box or hidden behind another object on a shelf - visible light waves don't pass through walls, after all. But radio waves do. RF-Grasp also has the unique ability to "declutter" its environment: In experiments, it removed packaging material and other obstacles that were in its way in order to reach the target object.



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