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Robot Information Sharing Website In The Works

February 9, 2011

European scientists have launched a new website that robots will use to share data and ask for assistance in completing a certain project, according to a Wednesday report by BBC News Technology Correspondent Mark Ward.

Ward compares the website, which is being called RoboEarth, to a robotic equivalent of Wikipedia, and says that the project will “let robots share and store what they discover about the world.”

“It will be a place that robots can upload data to when they master a task, and ask for help in carrying out new ones,” the BBC News reporter added. “Researchers behind it hope it will allow robots to come into service more quickly, armed with a growing library of knowledge about their human masters.”

RoboEarth will serve as both a system of communication and a database of information, Dr. Markus Waibel of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, one of the researchers behind the website, told Ward. He said that he hopes it will eventually allow robots to share information that they discover about the word so that any other robot in the world can find it and utilize it.

Some examples of the types of information Waibel and his team of nearly three dozen colleagues anticipate being shared through RoboEarth are maps of locations where the robots work, descriptions of the various objects they encounter, and even detail sets of instructions for completing specific activities.

The robots themselves would contribute and edit the information, thus leading to the Wikipedia comparisons.

“Wikipedia is something that humans use to share knowledge, that everyone can edit, contribute knowledge to and access. Something like that does not exist for robots,” Waibel told Ward. “The key is allowing robots to share knowledge. That’s really new.”

“Dr. Waibel said it would be a place that would teach robots about the objects that fill the human world and their relationships to each other,” Ward added. “For instance, he said, RoboEarth could help a robot understand what is meant when it is asked to set the table and what objects are required for that task to be completed.”

The project is funded by the European Union (EU), according to BBC News, and preliminary work has led to the development of a method in which robots can upload maps and download a series of instructions for tasks that they can complete. They hope that the project will be fully operational within four years.

“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,” claims a statement on the project’s official website.

“RoboEarth will include everything needed to close the loop from robot to RoboEarth to robot,” the RoboEarth homepage adds. “The RoboEarth World-Wide-Web style database will be implemented on a Server with Internet and Intranet functionality. It stores information required for object recognition (e.g., images, object models), navigation (e.g., maps, world models), tasks (e.g., action recipes, manipulation strategies) and hosts intelligent services (e.g., image annotation, offline learning).”

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