Robots can learn faster by crowdsourcing information from the Internet

robots learn faster crowdsourcing information
Image: University of Washington

In order for robots to learn new skills faster, all they need is a little help from their Internet friends.

At the 2014 Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers International Conference on Robotics and Automation in Hong Kong, computer scientists from the University of Washington showed that crowdsourcing information from the online community may be a quick and effective way of teaching robots how to complete tasks, like setting a table or tending a garden.

Yes, let’s use the web to hasten their journey to self awareness.

According to the scientists, robots can learn how to perform tasks by imitating humans, but such an approach can take a lot of time. For example, showing a robot how to load a dishwasher may require many repetitious lessons to demonstrate how to hold different plates or load things in properly.  With this new technique, the robot can turn to the web to get additional input on how to correctly complete the tasks.

“We’re trying to create a method for a robot to seek help from the whole world when it’s puzzled by something,” said Rajesh Rao, an associate professor of computer science and engineering at the UW. “This is a way to go beyond just one-on-one interaction between a human and a robot by also learning from other humans around the world.”

To demonstrate this theory, the researchers had study participants build models — such as cars, trees, turtles, snakes and more — out of colored Lego blocks, and then asked robots to build the same objects.  But since the robots had only witnessed a few examples, they couldn’t fully complete the tasks.

So to finish their projects, they turned to the crowd, hiring people from Amazon Mechanical Turk, a crowdsourcing Internet marketplace, to generate more solutions for building the models. From more than 100 crowd-generated models to choose from, the robots picked the best ones to build based on difficulty and similarity to the original objects.

The robots then built the best models of each participant’s shape.  Such a learning technique is known as “goal-based imitation,” which harnesses the robot’s ability to know what its human operator wants and then come up with the best possible way to achieve that goal.

“The end result is still a turtle, but it’s something that is manageable for the robot and similar enough to the original model, so it achieves the same goal,” said Maya Cakmak, a UW assistant professor of computer science and engineering.

So sure, the online community may be helpful for these robots, just as long as they stay away from all of the comments sections on YouTube.

Emerging Tech

Google’s radar-sensing tech could make any object smart

Computer scientists have shown how Google’s Soli sensor can be used to make dumb objects smart. Here's why radar-powered computing could finally make the dream of smart homes a reality.
Emerging Tech

ANYmal dog robot can get back on its feet when someone pushes it over

Roboticists at ETH Zurich have demonstrated how their ANYmal four-legged robot is capable of taking a kicking and keeping on walking -- or getting back to its feet if it's pushed over.
Emerging Tech

Tiny microbots fold like origami to travel through the human body

Tiny robots modeled after bacteria could be used to deliver drugs to hard to reach areas of the human body. Scientists have developed elastic microbots that can change their shape depending on their environment.
Emerging Tech

Too buzzed to drive? Don’t worry — this autonomous car-bar will drive to you

It might just be the best or worst idea that we've ever heard: A self-driving robot bartender you can summon with an app, which promises to mix you the perfect drink wherever you happen to be.
Emerging Tech

How long is a day on Saturn? Scientists finally have an answer

The length of Saturn's day has always been a challenge to calculate because of the planet's non-solid surface and magnetic field. But now scientists have tracked vibrations in the rings to pin down a final answer.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: camera with A.I. director, robot arm assistant

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Emerging Tech

Dinosaurs never stood a chance after asteroid impacts doubled 290M years ago

The number of asteroids pummeling Earth jumped dramatically around 290 million years ago. By looking at Moon craters, scientists discovered that d the number of asteroid impacts on both Earth and the Moon increased by two to three times.
Emerging Tech

Saturn didn’t always have rings, according to new analysis of Cassini data

Saturn's rings are younger than previously believed, according to new data gathered from the Cassini mission. The rings are certainly less than 100 million years old and perhaps as young as 10 million years old.
Emerging Tech

Water-based fuel cell converts carbon emissions to electricity

Scientists from Korea's Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology have developed a system which can continuously produce electrical energy and hydrogen by dissolving carbon dioxide in an aqueous solution.
Emerging Tech

Scientists investigate how massive stars die in dramatic hypernova events

Our Sun will gradually fade before expanding into a red giant at the end of its life. But larger mass stars undergo extreme explosive events called hypernovas when they die which outshine their entire galaxies.
Emerging Tech

Pilotless planes are on their way, but would you fly in one?

Airbus says advancements in artificial intelligence can help it toward its goal of building a plane capable of fully autonomous flight, though whether passengers can be persuaded to travel in one is another matter entirely.
Emerging Tech

‘Tech vest’ prevents Amazon workers from colliding with robot co-workers

Amazon workers at its fulfillment centers are using "tech vests" to help protect them from collisions with their robot co-workers. The robots already have obstacle avoidance sensors, but the belt offers another layer of safety.
Emerging Tech

3D printers are finally affordable. Here are the best models under $500

3D printer prices have dropped dramatically over the past few years, but just because something is cheap doesn’t mean it’s worth buying. Here, we’ve rounded up all the cheap 3D printers that are actually worth spending your money on.
Mobile

T-Mobile 5G rollout: Here is everything you need to know

2019 will be a huge year for T-Mobile. Not only is a merger with Sprint likely, but T-Mobile is also in the midst of building out its next-generation mobile service. Here's everything you need to know about the T-Mobile 5G rollout.