Need A Drink? $280,000 PR2 Robot Knows How To Fetch Beer

If you've ever wondered what the Willow Garage team does with PR2 in its down time, then wonder no more: they've got it delivering drinks. 

"Have you ever really wanted a beer, but you didn't want to stop working?" asks one of Willow Garage's engineers, in a hackathon video from a few summers ago. "At Willow Garage, we've solved this problem."

He's not lying. The team has, for at least the past two years, been using PR2 to deliver them beer and other drinks while they code and tinker away. As if there weren't enough reasons to be jealous of the Willow Garage team (they get to play with and build awesome robots all day!), now they've got their own personal beerbot. 

How it works is incredibly simple - the team designed a web application known as "Beer Me," in which the user is presented with a menu of ice-cold beers and ciders, along with a pull-down menu specifying the office to which the alcohol is to be delivered; whatever beer the user wishes to order can be dragged into a beer bucket in the center of the screen. Once the order has been confirmed, PR2 rolls over to the fridge, opens the door, and positions itself so as to prevent it from closing.

At that point, it uses object recognition to determine which beers are available, reporting back to the app if anything happens to be out of stock. Otherwise, it stacks the whole order into a foam holster, closes the door, and makes its way to the desired office. As if that's not enough, PR2 is equipped with face detection in order to allow the robot to hand off the drink to whoever ordered it. 

When it arrives in the office, it'll extend its arm, beer in hand. Once it detects a face, it'll turn towards the person, waiting for them to take the drink. It'll release the beer from its hands once it detects someone pulling on it, and even offer a bottle opener in the event that the beer has a lid.

So, yeah. The guys at Willow Garage have their own personal beerbot. Jealous?