A robotic brain that learns on its own. That is the basic description of Robo Brain. It learns new skills by browsing millions of web pages and is a collaboration project between the universities of Stanford, UC Berkeley, Brown and Cornell. Robo Brain is designed to acquire a vast range of skills and knowledge from publicly available records.
“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,” said Ashutosh Saxena, assistant professor of computer science at Cornell University. Robo Brain will process images to pick out the objects in them, and by connecting images and video with text, it will learn to recognize objects and how they are used, along with human language and behavior.
The system employs what computer scientists call “structured deep learning,” where information is stored in many levels of abstraction. An easy chair is a member of the class of chairs, and going up another level, chairs are furniture. Robo Brain knows that chairs are something people sit on, but that a human can also sit on a stool, a bench or the lawn.
A similar project is already being developed in Europe. Robo Earth, described as a world wide web for robots, was demonstrated by researchers at Eindhoven University in the Netherlands in January. Like Robo Brain, it aims to become a global repository for information that can be accessed by other robots. But unlike Robo Earth, Robo Brain is able to build up its own understanding from the information it gets from the internet, rather than being programmed by humans.
The researchers say Robo Brain is not just capable of recognizing objects, but of understanding how they are used, as well as more complex concepts, including human language and behavior. For example, it can recognise objects such as mugs, and understand what a mug is used for and how it is carried. In addition, it is able to recognize when someone is watching television, and knows not to get in the way.
It seems that we’re well on the way to true artificial intelligence. Could self-awareness become a possibility at some point? Hard to say, but we seem to be exponentially headed for a future that includes robots involved in our lives in many possible ways. As Spock would say, “Fascinating.”
Sources: CNET/BBC News