20 Jul

Look out Robots could soon teach each other new tricks

first_img By Matthew HutsonMay. 10, 2017 , 10:00 AM Click to view the privacy policy. Required fields are indicated by an asterisk (*) Someday soon, robot assistants will be a part of our everyday lives—but only if we can teach them new tasks without programming. If you have to learn to code, you might as well make the sandwich yourself. Now, a new system makes teaching robots almost as easy as teaching a child. And conveniently—or alarmingly, if you’re afraid of robot dominion—they can use this system to share their skills with each other.There are two basic ways to train a robot. One is to program its movements, which requires time and coding expertise. The other is to demonstrate what you want by tugging on its limbs, moving digital representations of them, or doing the task yourself as an example for the robot to imitate. But delicate tasks sometimes require more precision than a person can demonstrate by hand—defusing a bomb is one good example. Now, with a system called C-LEARN, scientists have imbued a robot with a knowledge base of simple steps that it can intelligently apply when learning a new task.“[C-LEARN] takes a very practical approach that works really well,” says Anca Dragan, a roboticist at the University of California, Berkeley, who was not involved in the research. Sign up for our daily newsletter Get more great content like this delivered right to you! Country In this system, human users first help build the robot’s knowledge base. Researchers taught a two-armed robot called Optimus by clicking and dragging its limbs in a software program. They demonstrated movements, such as grasping the top of a cylinder or the side of a block. They performed each task seven times from different positions. The movement varied slightly each time, and the robot looked for patterns that it then integrated into its system. For example, if the grasper always ended up roughly parallel to the object, the robot would infer that parallelism was an important constraint to that process.At this point, the robot is “like a 2-year-old baby that just knows how to reach for something and grasp it,” says Claudia Pérez D’Arpino, a computer scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge and the leader of the study. With its knowledge base, the robot can learn new, multistep tasks with just a single demonstration. Users show robots the desired task with the C-LEARN software, and then approve or correct the robot’s attempt. It’s a one-and-done affair.“Robots that can obey geometric constraints have been around for more than a decade,” says Maya Cakmak, a roboticist at the University of Washington in Seattle who was not involved in the work. “However, so far only experts have been able to make use of them.”To test the system, the researchers taught Optimus four multistep tasks: to pick up a bottle and drop it in a bucket, to grab and lift a tray horizontally with both hands, to open a box with one hand and press a button inside it with the other, and to grasp a handle on a cube with one hand and pull a rod straight out of the cube with the other. For each task, Optimus received one demonstration and made 10 attempts. It succeeded 37 out of 40 times, researchers will report later this month at the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation.For an even tougher challenge, the researchers transferred Optimus’s knowledge base and its plans for the four tasks to a simulation of Atlas, a two-footed robot that has to keep its balance. Atlas managed to complete all four tasks. But when researchers deleted some of the transferred knowledge, such as the constraint of keeping certain movements parallel, it failed.Such knowledge transfer would have practical application, D’Arpino says. “You can teach one robot to do something in a factory in Germany, and there’s no reason you can’t transfer that to a different robot in Canada.” Of course, of concern to those who have a dystopian view of the future is that robots teaching each other new skills over the internet would be a necessary first step toward world domination.D’Arpino is now seeing whether people interacting with Optimus for the first time can teach it new tricks. The results so far are promising, though she’s not ready to discuss them in detail. Next, she hopes to teach robots the flexibility to adjust their learned skills on the fly.One eventual goal is to teach the robots to disable bombs, a delicate task in which robots need to be directed quickly and with high precision. Other applications include finding people in a disaster, manufacturing electronics, and helping sick—or lazy—people with chores around the house. “There’s this promise of robots at home, but the reality is that now they can do nothing,” D’Arpino says. “What can a robot today do at your place, other than vacuum? It’s really hard.” She’s hoping to change that.center_img Country * Afghanistan Aland Islands Albania Algeria Andorra Angola Anguilla Antarctica Antigua and Barbuda Argentina Armenia Aruba Australia Austria Azerbaijan Bahamas Bahrain Bangladesh Barbados Belarus Belgium Belize Benin Bermuda Bhutan Bolivia, Plurinational State of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba Bosnia and Herzegovina Botswana Bouvet Island Brazil British Indian Ocean Territory Brunei Darussalam Bulgaria Burkina Faso Burundi Cambodia Cameroon Canada Cape Verde Cayman Islands Central African Republic Chad Chile China Christmas Island Cocos (Keeling) Islands Colombia Comoros Congo Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Cook Islands Costa Rica Cote d’Ivoire Croatia Cuba Curaçao Cyprus Czech Republic Denmark Djibouti Dominica Dominican Republic Ecuador Egypt El Salvador Equatorial Guinea Eritrea Estonia Ethiopia Falkland Islands (Malvinas) Faroe Islands Fiji Finland France French Guiana French Polynesia French Southern Territories Gabon Gambia Georgia Germany Ghana Gibraltar Greece Greenland Grenada Guadeloupe Guatemala Guernsey Guinea Guinea-Bissau Guyana Haiti Heard Island and McDonald Islands Holy See (Vatican City State) Honduras Hungary Iceland India Indonesia Iran, Islamic Republic of Iraq Ireland Isle of Man Israel Italy Jamaica Japan Jersey Jordan Kazakhstan Kenya Kiribati Korea, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Republic of Kuwait Kyrgyzstan Lao People’s Democratic Republic Latvia Lebanon Lesotho Liberia Libyan Arab Jamahiriya Liechtenstein Lithuania Luxembourg Macao Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Madagascar Malawi Malaysia Maldives Mali Malta Martinique Mauritania Mauritius Mayotte Mexico Moldova, Republic of Monaco Mongolia Montenegro Montserrat Morocco Mozambique Myanmar Namibia Nauru Nepal Netherlands New Caledonia New Zealand Nicaragua Niger Nigeria Niue Norfolk Island Norway Oman Pakistan Palestine Panama Papua New Guinea Paraguay Peru Philippines Pitcairn Poland Portugal Qatar Reunion Romania Russian Federation Rwanda Saint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha Saint Kitts and Nevis Saint Lucia Saint Martin (French part) Saint Pierre and Miquelon Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Samoa San Marino Sao Tome and Principe Saudi Arabia Senegal Serbia Seychelles Sierra Leone Singapore Sint Maarten (Dutch part) Slovakia Slovenia Solomon Islands Somalia South Africa South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands South Sudan Spain Sri Lanka Sudan Suriname Svalbard and Jan Mayen Swaziland Sweden Switzerland Syrian Arab Republic Taiwan Tajikistan Tanzania, United Republic of Thailand Timor-Leste Togo Tokelau Tonga Trinidad and Tobago Tunisia Turkey Turkmenistan Turks and Caicos Islands Tuvalu Uganda Ukraine United Arab Emirates United Kingdom United States Uruguay Uzbekistan Vanuatu Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of Vietnam Virgin Islands, British Wallis and Futuna Western Sahara Yemen Zambia Zimbabwe Email Look out: Robots could soon teach each other new trickslast_img read more