Centre for Robotics and Intelligent Systems of the University of Plymouth


  Giving a robot a useful skill for household and industrial tasks.

Fabric Manipulation by Personal Robots
Aim:  The overall aim is the development of robot skills required for the manipulation of fabrics in an unstructured environment, e.g. home or laundry. 

This project focuses on sorting tasks, such as those conducted before placing cloth in a washing machine.

The objective is the development of artificial vision and manipulation algorithms enabling a small humanoid robot to conduct fabric sorting tasks.

The project starts with the observation of humans performing a cloth sorting task. (Figure 1A and 1B, Publication 1).

The observations were analysed (figure 2A) and formed the basis for a computational model of human visual search and grasp (Fig 2B, Publication 1).

This model is now being implemented.




Fig 1. Setup for human observation. A. The subject is placed in front of a pile of cloth to be sorted by colour or size. B. An eye tracker is used to follow the gaze direction of the subject.

Findings: Of special interest are following facts:
- The eyes saccade from grasping point to grasping point. There is no evidence of overt scanning of the visual scene for the selection of the next grasping point (figure 2A)
- Saccades targets reflect covert visual search and strategic planning processes, constrained for instance by the availability of the right or left hand for the grasping task and the motion of the hand after grasping.




Fig 2: A. Classification of eye and hand movements during a sorting task. B. Computational model of visual search and grasp based on figure 2A.

Current work covers:

- The development of a vision algorithm for selecting the next grasping point. A video of initial screenshots shows the selection of grasping points which a human operator use to remove pieces of cloth.

- The development of a gripper and its control system for the humanoid robot.

Peter Gibbons    university page - personal page
    Phil Culverhouse    university page - personal page
    Guido Bugmann university page - personal page


1. . "Fabric Manipulation: An Eye Tracking Experiment" (PDF  607KB)
Peter Gibbons, Phil Culverhouse, and Guido Bugmann (2008)
Proceedings of Taros'08, Edinburgh, pp. 130-134.
(also presented at the BMVA meeting on Vision and Robotics, 14 May 2008)


Guido Bugmann, 12 February 2009