Robots In The Cloud: RoboEarth Is Like The World Wide Web For Robots
January 15, 2014

RoboEarth: Creating A World Wide Web For Robots

Lee Rannals for - Your Universe Online

Scientists have created a network called RoboEarth for robots to pass on information they learn to one another, essentially creating a collective cloud mind.

The team behind RobotEarth said on Monday that they will be providing a final demonstration of the robot network on Thursday at the Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands. This demonstration will include four robots collaboratively working together to help patients in a hospital.

The robots use RobotEarth similar to how humans use the Internet. This network provides a knowledge base, communication medium, and computational resource to help offload some of the robots’ heavy computation.

“At its core, RoboEarth is a World Wide Web for robots: a giant network and database repository where robots can share information and learn from each other about their behavior and their environment,” the RoboEarth developers wrote on their website. “Bringing a new meaning to the phrase “experience is the best teacher”, the goal of RoboEarth is to allow robotic systems to benefit from the experience of other robots, paving the way for rapid advances in machine cognition and behavior, and ultimately, for more subtle and sophisticated human-machine interaction.”

Eventually, the scientists hope that both robots and humans will be able to upload information to the database. For example, a robot could navigate and map out its way around an environment and then upload this map to RoboEarth so that another robot entering the room for the first time would already know its way around.

“The aim of RoboEarth is to use the Internet to create a giant open source network database that can be accessed and continually updated by robots around the world. With knowledge shared via the cloud on such a vast scale, and with businesses and academics contributing independently on a common language platform, RoboEarth has the potential to provide a powerful feed forward to any robot’s 3D sensing, acting and learning capabilities,” the creators behind RobotEarth wrote.

The researchers hope that the RobotEarth database can be used as a launch pad for further research and development, which could eventually lead to standardization, common language protocols and a more modular design of cloud robotics systems.

While RoboEarth could be a huge step in attempting to merge robots with society, some see it as a stepping stone to a future where robots become our overlords.

"In the short term, RoboEarth adds security by building in a single point of failure for all participating robots," James Barrat, who has authored books about the dangers of robots gaining their own intelligence, told BBC News. "In the longer term, watch out when any of the nodes can evolve or otherwise improve their own software. The consequences of sharing that capability with the central 'mind' should be explored before it happens."