MIT roboticists and Harvard mathematicians have teamed up to solve an age-old problem: how to teach a robot to brush tangled human hair without just ripping it all out and/or killing the person it’s attached to. Per MIT News while I brush my own hair in the mirror and repeatedly lie and tell myself I’m the fairest of them all:
With rapidly growing demands on health care systems, nurses typically spend 18 to 40 percent of their time performing direct patient care tasks, oftentimes for many patients and with little time to spare. Personal care robots that brush hair could provide substantial help and relief[…]
CSAIL postdoc Josie Hughes and her team opted to represent the entangled hair as sets of entwined double helices — think classic DNA strands. This level of granularity provided key insights into mathematical models and control systems for manipulating bundles of soft fibers, with a wide range of applications in the textile industry, animal care, and other fibrous systems.
“By developing a model of tangled fibers, we understand from a model-based perspective how hairs must be entangled: starting from the bottom and slowly working the way up to prevent ‘jamming’ of the fibers,” says Hughes, the lead author on a paper about RoboWig. “This is something everyone who has brushed hair has learned from experience, but is now something we can demonstrate through a model, and use to inform a robot.”
So yeah, a robot that can allegedly brush hair without causing pain. Of course if it really doesn’t cause pain, how come they’re using mannequin heads instead of real people? I’m a firm believer in putting your money where your mouth is. “You have a cheekful of quarters right now, don’t you?” Race you to the arcade!