Smart as a baby

A collaboration between UW developmental psychologists and computer scientists aims to enable robots to learn in the same way that children naturally do. The team used research on how babies follow an adult’s gaze to “teach” a robot to perform the same task. Credit: University of Washington

Babies are tremendous "learners": they know nothing about the world at birth and yet little by little they discover gravity, the fact that one one object can hide another in the back, the difference between pulling and pushing and what you can pull but cannot push... They do so by experimenting (and often frustrating their parents that have to pick up objects thrown over and over again on the floor from the high chair...)

Clearly they are smart and they get smarter as they grow.

Couldn't robots be wired to be as smart as a baby and learn as they interact with what's around them?

This is what a joint team of developmental psychologists and computer scientists set out to do at the University of Washington and now they are reporting on their results.

The goal is to let a person with no familiarity with programming to teach a robot how to do something, be it cooking, doing the dishes or cleaning the floor...

It is not completely new. Baxter is capable of learning by being taught. In that case, however we are dealing with a factory robots that is preprogrammed to do certain actions and what the fellow human does is showing the sequence of actions that needs to be done.

At the university of Washington the team has programmed the robot to watch what people are doing and to learn how to imitate them. The goal is much more difficult than what one would think at first sight.

Author - Roberto Saracco

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