Wednesday, October 12, 2011

'Thinking' Robot Teaches Itself a Task

This robot is not pre-programmed, but instead problem-solves based on knowledge and experience. Click to enlarge this image. Youtube Screengrab

Instead of performing tasks based on a computer program, this robot problem solves on the fly.


  • A Japanese researcher has developed a system that allows a robot to solve problems.
  • With the algorithm, the robot uses its knowledge to complete tasks it has been asked to do.
Robots that learn from experience and can solve novel problems — just like humans — sound like science fiction.

But a Japanese researcher is working on making them science fact, with machines that can teach themselves to perform tasks they have not been programmed to do, using objects they have never seen before.

In a world first, Osamu Hasegawa, associate professor at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, has developed a system that allows robots to look around their environment and do research on the Internet, enabling them to “think” how best to solve a problem.

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“Most existing robots are good at processing and performing the tasks they are pre-programmed to do, but they know little about the ‘real world’ where we humans live,” he told AFP. “So our project is an attempt to build a bridge between robots and that real world.
The Self-Organizing Incremental Neural Network, or “SOINN,” is an algorithm that allows robots to use their knowledge — what they already know — to infer how to complete tasks they have been told to do.

SOINN examines the environment to gather the data it needs to organize the information it has been given into a coherent set of instructions.

robotic hand


Tell a SOINN-powered machine that it should, for example: “Serve water.”
Without special programs for water-serving, the robot works out the order of the actions required to complete the task.

The SOINN machine asks for help when facing a task beyond its ability and crucially, stores the information it learns for use in a future task.

In a separate experiment, SOINN is used to power machines to search the Internet for information on what something looks like, or what a particular word might mean.
Hasegawa’s team is trying to merge these abilities and create a machine that can work out how to perform a given task through online research.           More