Robots today must be programmed by writing computer code, but imagine donning a VR headset and virtually guiding a robot through a task, like you would move the arms of a puppet, and then
letting the robot take it from there.
That’s the vision of Pieter Abbeel, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the University of California, Berkeley, and his students, Peter Chen, Rocky Duan, Tianhao Zhang, who have launched a start-up, Embodied Intelligence, Inc., to use the latest techniques of deep reinforcement learning and artificial intelligence to make industrial robots easily teachable.
Right now, if you want to set up a robot, you program that robot to do what you want it to do, which takes a lot of time and a lot of expertise,” said Abbeel, who is currently on leave to turn his vision into reality. “With our advances in machine learning, we can write a piece of software once, machine learning code that enables the robot to learn, and then when the robot needs to be equipped with a new skill, we simply provide new data.”
The “data” is training, much like you’d train a human worker, though with the added dimension of virtual reality. Using a VR headset without ever touching the robot, people can train a robot in a day, in contrast to the weeks to months typically required to write new computer code to reprogram a robot. The technique can work with robots currently in manufacturing plants and warehouses around the world. (cont’d)
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Video by Roxanne Makasdjian and Stephen McNally
Music: “Right Place Right Time” by Silent Partner