Wonderful, just wonderful. The UMass Mobile Manipulator, developed at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, can learn (by itself) how to use different tools (weapons).
UMan uses a regular webcam to look down at a table from above. By analyzing differences between adjacent pixels, it guesses where an object's edges might be found. Then it prods the object and, on the basis of how it moves, revises its estimate of the object's shape. It continues shoving the object around, observing how its parts move in relation to each other. UMan will push the object backward and forward along its width and length and at a 45-degree angle to both, if necessary, until it's satisfied that it understands how the object moves. Wherever the movement is restricted, the robot concludes that there's a joint. UMan then uses that information to figure out the best way to manipulate the object. It can also tell if there are multiple joints, and how those relate to each other.
Oh my God this is the exact opposite of awesome. I can see it now: some robot lopping my melon off with a pair of compound pruning shears. Great, this is just great. F*** you, UMass robot sympathizers.
Robot Learns To Use Tools [technologyreview]
Thanks Steve, Shawn and Jim, now I have to break everything in my toolbox.