On Thursday, Alphabet’s X moonshot unit, formerly known as Google X, launched the Everyday Robot project, which aims to develop “universal learning robots,”media reported. The idea is that its robots can use cameras and sophisticated machine learning algorithms to observe and observe. Learn from the world around you without coding for each action.
The team is testing robots that can help in a workplace environment. Today, though, these early robots are still focused on learning how to sort garbage.
The concept of mastering something is easy for most people to implement, but teaching robots is a very challenging thing, and Everyday Robot’s robots can be practiced in both the physical and virtual worlds. Media Wired describes how nearly 30 robots’ “game fences” (under human supervision) sort waste into trays during the day for composting, landfilling and recycling. In the evening, according to Wired, Everyday Robot lets virtual robots practice grabbing things in simulated buildings. The simulated data is then combined with real-world data, which is provided to the robot every two weeks in a system update.
Through all these practices, X indicates that the robot is actually very good at sorting, apparently putting less than 5% of the garbage in the wrong place.
But that doesn’t mean they’re ready to replace humans with robots. Wired observed a robot failing to catch the bowl in front. During the demonstration, another robot lost a “finger”. Engineers also told Wired that some robots did not succeed in walking through buildings because certain types of light caused their sensors to create “illusions” about holes in the floor.
There are currently entire startups dedicated to teaching robots how to master problems, such as CapitalIntelligence and the non-profit organization OpenAI. Google, also owned by Alphabet, has done grip research – a 2016 video shows some of Google’s robotic arms trying to grab objects of different sizes:
But what X and Google are doing is making progress. For example, Boston Dynamics (formerly owned by Google) released the video in 2018, including its SpotMini robot grabbing the doorknob and opening the door for a friend:
Google showed off a robot in March that can pick up objects, and over time it learned the best way to throw a particular object:
Hans Peter Brondmo, head of Everyday Robot, told Wired that he hopes to one day create a robot that could help the elderly. But he also acknowledges that it could take years to create something similar.