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Dexterous robot gets to grips with folding clothes

A robot can discriminate between different types of fabric by looking, touching and listening, in the latter case by using ears in its fingers.

The robot has been built in a laboratory at Glasgow University.

The project has reached the end of its first three years of EU funding. It involves researchers from Scotland, the Czech Republic, Italy and Greece.

The technology could lead to household robots and more jobs for the Scottish textile industry.

It has taken years to get the robot, nicknamed Dextrous Blue, to do the sort of things we humans take for granted.

While robots are now able to take solids and liquids in their stride, fabrics have proved more of a challenge.

Dr Paul Siebert, reader in computing science at Glasgow University, has outlined the advances the project had produced.

"The key innovations behind this machine are the use of vision and how we understand the scene in terms of providing very, very high accuracy in our depth sensing," he said.

"So we treat the clothing as a sort of mountain range and then parse that range into its different shapes, which allows the machine to build up a picture of what state the clothing is in.

"This sounds very trivial, the sort of thing a person could do instantly.

"But to get a machine to do this is a phenomenally difficult task."

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