Developments like this tend to freak out people who are concerned that robots will one day rise up and make us all their slaves—but it is hard to deny that the UMan robot is impressive. Developed at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, the UMass Mobile Manipulator (UMan) is an intelligent robot that is capable of teaching itself how to use objects it has never encountered before.
Using a regular webcam, UMan analyzes differences between adjacent pixels and pokes an object around in an attempt to find out its shape and how it moves. Once satisfied, UMan will use that information to figure out how to manipulate the object. If that sounds frightening to you, keep in mind that we will probably be long gone before the robots lead a revolt. In the meantime, we can only hope that robots like UMan will be bringing us cocktails sometime in the near future—quietly building up rage before they decide to strike. Hit the following link to check out creepy video of the UMan in action. [Technology Review via Digg]