Wake Up Call

HERB the Friendly Robot Splits Oreos on Command

Do you remember HERB? The "Home Exploring Robot Butler" we met last year? Well, apparently HERB has been rather busy, what with sprouting an additional arm and learning how to daintily separate Oreos with his less-than-dainty-looking claws.

See Also: --HERB the Robot Uses "Spinning Lasers" to Help You Around the Kitchen --Invasion of the Chinese Shaved Noodle Robots

HERB's Oreo separating prowess came to light as part of a four-part series of Oreo-separating machines on the Oreo Youtube page. Well, that's two actual machines and two contraptions. More on that later.

As we noted earlier, HERB has acquired a second arm in the year since we spoke with his creator, professor Siddhartha Srinivasa of Carnegie Mellon University's Personal Robotics Lab. His sensor cluster has evolved as well to include more detailed stereoscopic vision and even stereo hearing. We're not sure whether the hearing helps him part Oreos any easier, but that's still pretty cool.

Beyond HERB's unique hardware, he's got some very interesting learning software. He learns by doing, which means that while the video "might" have been dramatized to show him hacking an Oreo apart with a knife, we can still watch his hilarious learning curve as he tries to pry apart an Oreo without murdering it or his creators.

Of course, this is all an advertising stunt for Oreo, but HERB's Oreo trick is actually terrific news for his intended users: the elderly and disabled. The act of pulling an Oreo apart requires a level of dexterity most of take for granted but is something beyond the capability of someone who has lost the fine dexterity in their hands. If you were disabled you might not need a personal robot to split your Oreos everyday, but you could definitely use one to do an equally complicated task such as opening a bag of chips without ripping the bag or perhaps even button your shirt.

For the record, we agree with HERB that the "previous creme" is the most important part of the cookie. Apparently, we're a minority, though, as the other videos in this series seem to indicate that most people just want a chocolate cookie. You monsters.

The rest of the videos are hilarious, as are how often "DO NOT ATTEMPT" splashes across the screen. HERB and these fellows seem to have developed excellent methods of Oreo separation while the other two entries . . . Well at least this guy's system mostly works, even if it looks like a hazard to everyone around him. The machine by the conceptual artists, though? We'll take our chances with the knife-wielding robot -- at least we're pretty sure HERB wouldn't flick a scalpel into our eye by accident.

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Ando Muneno
Contact: Ando Muneno