Robots, in today’s tech-savvy world, can be seen assisting humans in many areas. But even today, a robot’s functions are very limited and task-specific. For instance, robots made by Boston Mechanics, a company bought by Google, cannot be used to help old people or cheer young ones or robots on assembly line are unaware of human existence around them. Mainly because they are only ‘taught’ to perform a specific task only. But that may soon be changed with the introduction of a RoboEarth, the World Wide Web for robots: a giant knowledge base for robots to ‘learn’ from. Yes! Learn, like humans do from things around them.
The idea of self-learning robots may sound familiar to science fiction fans as there are a bunch of movies made on the topic. But keeping the similar structure of such movies aside, this achievement is a very huge leap in making robots that are multi-functional and have the ability to think and perform a task efficiently as compared to their programmed counterparts.
RoboEarth conducted a live demo in which they created a fake hospital room and set a robot to explore the hospital. The said robot wasn’t programmed to help humans, only to understand what they were saying. When a fake patient asked the robot to give him water, the robot pinged RoboEarth for help. In response, another robot showed up, that showed the first robot how to distinguish water from other liquids, how to pour water into a glass, and how to serve it. The robot didn’t even learn how to do that but it actually did that correctly for the first time. Without having any prior knowledge about it at all.
René van de Molengraft, the lead researcher on the project, seems very excited about the project and wants to bring it to public use as soon as possible. According to him, a robotic community is already in place to apply the system to other domains.
Two important developments will take place
says Molengraft while talking to FastCoExist. He added,
One, robotic hardware and software platforms will evolve to a level that highly capable robots will be affordable for a wide range of societal applications like health care. Two, the cognitive level of robots will greatly improve due to the re-use of available knowledge via systems like RoboEarth. The integration of these will bring robots into our everyday life in the coming decade.
This demo opened up a universe of possible robotic jobs and perhaps an ancient debate of the danger of creating robots that can think independently. Perhaps in the next few years, you’d find yourself sitting right next to a robot in a waiting room of a job interview.