A new robot brain can learn from the internet

Researchers have built a new robotic ‘brain’ that can learn from the internet. While most of us feel our brain cells dying as we watch endless YouTube videos instead of getting on with something useful, Robo Brain only becomes more intelligent.

As the BBC reports, it learns new skills and understanding by browsing millions of web pages and collating data from user-uploaded online videos. This information can then be stored in a central location, like a cloud for robots, so that other robots can access it and understand how to perform everyday tasks without having to be individually programmed. It was developed by a team from four American universities (Cornell, Brown, Stanford and California), with the backing of tech companies including Microsoft and Google.

Earlier this year, researchers from the Netherlands unveiled a project, RoboEarth, which was designed to create a universal knowledge resource for robots. However, it has to be programmed by humans, whereas Robo Brain can learn without adult supervision. It started browsing the internet last month, taking in everything from photos and videos to how-to manuals. So far, it’s learned to recognise chairs and knows how microwaves, computer mice, and umbrellas work, so it’s well on the way to commuting to a boring desk job where employees secretly watch YouTube all day.

It’s also learning about human behaviour, and how to respond to it, having already grasped a concept more people should be familiar with: when someone’s watching TV, stay out of their way. You can learn more about what the Robo Brain knows about us via a website tracking its new knowledge.

Image by D J Shin via Wikimedia Commons.

Diane Shipley