Robots nowadays are using step-by-step instructions from Wikihow to learn how to perform human tasks, so that they can one day make people’s lives more comfortable.
One of the most daunting challenges in modern-day robotics is designing robots so that their behavior is more humanlike. RoboHow, an EU-funded project launched in 2012, aims to equip robots with the ability to communicate and learn by collecting information, piecing it together, putting it into practice and storing it in their memory for future use.
Instead of being pre-programmed, the robot will simply be told what to do and complete the task by turning ”high-level instructions into specific actions”. Alternatively, it could study virtual-reality data, after observing human movement as subjects wear tracking gloves and perform a task. You could also take the kinesthetic approach where you teach the robot as if it were a child: you physically take its hand and guide it to complete the action you want it to learn.
According to the team which includes researchers from 9 European universities, the robots will be able to “to competently perform everyday human-scale manipulation activities, both in human working and living environments.”
The German robot called PR2, created by a RoboHow team, is an illustration of these efforts. PR2 is a cognition-enabled autonomous service capable of physically performing tasks after processing written instructions from WikiHow. At the moment, PR2 is learning how to make pancakes and pizza by using online videos and recipes. This is a seemingly easy process which in fact involves a complex array of micro-tasks to be performed with precision – such as holding a spatula or opening a bottle with the right amount of pressure.
Researchers hope that PR2 will develop this knowledge, use it to complete its activities and transfer the newly acquired skill into the OpenEase online database. This would result in an ever-growing archive of knowledge, easily accessible to any robot. Basically, it will be, as Business Insider nicknames it, a `Wikipedia for robots` which will allow them to share knowledge and collaborate. Even in these early stages, such a team effort was already achieved, when Raphael, the PR2 robot, fetched tools and ingredients to Boxy, another robot who kneaded the dough and added the ingredients.
The ultimate aim is to develop robots whose high adaptability to the environment will allow them to follow instructions and easily react accordingly. The greatest obstacle is conveying meaning through algorithm, so that robots can establish human-like learning patterns. If this challenge is completed, humans could one day enjoy more leisure time, while robots perform their cooking and cleaning chores.
Photo credits: iflscience