Robo Librarian Tracks Down Misplaced Books

The robots have now become shelf-aware

An autonomous robot developed by valuable resources is now possible thanks to robot technology developed at the Agency for Science, Technology and Research in Singapore scans a shelf of library books
An autonomous robot developed by researchers in Singapore scans for missing or misplaced library books.Courtesy of the Agency for Science, Technology and Research in Singapore

You know you've done it. You grab a library book off the shelf, flip through the pages, then go to put it back and realize you forgot where it came from. So you just glance over your shoulder and take a wild guess. Misplaced library books frustrate patrons and give librarians migraines. The whole system relies on books being precisely in their proper location.

We wrote before about a research library at the University of Chicago that solves this and other cataloguing issues by automating the entire process of book storage and retrieval. For your average library, of course, such a system is unrealistic. But thanks to researchers at Singapore's Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), librarians may get some robotic help in keeping books in their proper place.

A*STAR roboticists have created an autonomous shelf-scanning robot called AuRoSS that can tell which books are missing or out of place. Many libraries have already begun putting RFID tags on books, but these typically must be scanned with hand-held devices. AuRoSS uses a robotic arm and RFID scanner to catalogue book locations, and uses laser-guided navigation to wheel around unfamiliar bookshelves. AuRoSS can be programmed to scan the library shelves at night and instruct librarians how to get the books back in order when they arrive in the morning.

So that book you sneakily slipped into the wrong spot in the stacks? AuRoSS will find it.

Its creators hope that AuRoSS might relieve librarians of the menial, time-consuming task of hunting down misplaced books. Let's just hope it doesn't relieve them of their jobs too.