August 27, 2014
Robo Brain Will Help Robots Learn Skills From The Internet And Apply Them To Household Tasks
John Hopton for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
A large-scale computational system that behaves like a robotic brain - known as 'Robo Brain' - has been developed by researchers from several US universities. It can acquire information and learn skills by processing the text, videos and images from millions of webpages and then apply the skills to perform tasks.Robo Brain, the product of a collaboration between the universities of Cornell, Brown, Stanford and California with support from companies including Google and Microsoft, has a European counterpart named RoboEarth, described as a world wide web for robots by researchers at Eindhoven University in the Netherlands. Both systems will act as an information resource for robots to share and obtain information; however Robo Brain is also capable of building its own understanding from the information it accesses, rather than being programmed by humans.
A website has been set up to show what Robo Brain has learned after accessing around a billion images, 120,000 YouTube videos and 100 million how-to documents and appliance manuals. It can not only recognize household objects such as chairs and coffee cups, but it also understands how humans use them and what additional materials are used with them. For example, it knows that liquid can be poured into a cup and that the cup must then be held upright. This ability to think abstractly is referred to by computer scientists as "structured deep learning." It means that context can be added. For example, the ‘brain’ is able to understand that a chair is a type of furniture and that other pieces of furniture can perform the same function, or that humans may sit somewhere else like a lawn.
These skills work together with a broader understanding of human behavior, including language, to provide the basis for robots that can help in houses, offices and factories. Robots utilizing the ‘brain’ would even be able to recognize that a human is watching TV and know not to get in the way.
According to BBC News, “Experts believe robots may be available in homes within 10 years, with robot vacuum cleaners and lawnmowers among the devices already available. More humanoid robots, able to assist disabled or elderly people, are now being developed.” This raises the question of whether the technology for such advanced, lifelike robots would progress more quickly than people’s willingness to accept them in intimate settings.
Ashutosh Saxena, assistant professor of computer science at Cornell and one of the researchers behind the project, explains that robots can continue learning indefinitely. “Our laptops and cell phones have access to all the information we want. If a robot encounters a situation it hasn’t seen before it can query Robo Brain in the cloud,” he said.
What Robo Brain has learned will be a “giant repository of knowledge collected from the Internet and stored in a robot-friendly format that robots will be able to draw on when they need it.”
Humans can view a catalogue of the system’s knowledge on the website and make additions and corrections.
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