Robotic brain 'learns' skills from the internet

Robot Robots designed for a range of tasks are already being developed

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A super-intelligent robotic "brain" that can learn new skills by browsing millions of web pages has been developed by US researchers.

Robo Brain is designed to acquire a vast range of skills and knowledge from publicly available information sources such as YouTube.

The information it learns can then be accessed by robots around the world, helping them to perform everyday tasks.

A similar project is already being developed in Europe.

RoboEarth, 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 RoboEarth, Robo Brain is able to build up its own understanding from the information it gets from the internet, rather than being programmed by humans.

Microwaves and umbrellas

The project is the result of a collaboration between the US universities of Cornell, Brown, Stanford and California, and has support from companies including Google and Microsoft.

Robo Brain began digesting information from the internet last month.

The researchers say it is sifting through about a billion images, 120,000 YouTube videos and 100 million how-to documents and appliance manuals.

A website for the project has been set up, detailing some of the knowledge it has acquired.

Start Quote

If a robot encounters a situation it hasn't seen before, it can query Robo Brain in the cloud”

End Quote Ashutosh Saxena Assistant professor of computer science, Cornell University

This includes the ability to recognise chairs, and understand how items such as microwaves and umbrellas are used.

The researchers say Robo Brain is not just capable of recognising objects, but of understanding how they are used, as well as more complex concepts - including human language and behaviour.

For example, it can recognise objects such as mugs, and understand what a mug is used for and how it is carried.

It is also able to recognise when someone is watching television, and knows not to get in the way.

Ashutosh Saxena, of Cornell University, one of the researchers behind the project, said the idea was to create a huge repository of information that robots could call on to perform tasks around the house or at work.

"If a robot encounters a situation it hasn't seen before, it can query Robo Brain in the cloud," he said.

Experts believe robots may be available in homes within 10 years, with robot vacuum cleaners and lawnmowers among the devices already available.

More humanoid robots, able to assist disabled or elderly people, are now being developed.

Researchers are increasingly looking to develop central repository stores of information to power these robots.

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