Tech genius Elon Musk, the Tony Stark of the 21st century, is planning his next science project.

Musk, who has SpaceX and Tesla under his wing, wants to build domestic droids that could become a staple to every household.

On Tuesday, his non-profit, artificial intelligence research company known as OpenAI announced in a blog post that its engineers are working to develop a physical robot that could perform basic housework.

The Age Of Robots

Founded in December last year, OpenAI aims to create open source AI to help humanity. This means that all research and patents generated by the group will become available to the public.

Ever since the nonprofit was created, experts have speculated as to what projects the company will pursue first.

On Monday, all speculations were satiated as Musk and three other primary backers signed a blog post revealing the company's initial goals.

One of the company's goals is the modification of a general purpose robot for household chores.

Although a room vacuuming robot named Roomba already exists, OpenAI's robot maid will be completely different.

The domestic droid would be a sophisticated modification of an undisclosed robot for cleaning purposes, the company said.

"There are existing techniques for specific tasks," Musk and his colleagues wrote in the post.

However, they believe that algorithms can be made effective enough to develop a general-purpose robot.

Another goal is the development of a robotic agent that could carry out complex conversations, fully understand a document, respond to questions if needed, and finish tasks when given verbal instructions.

Musk and his colleagues wrote that there are algorithms today that promise supervised language tasks such as answering questions and machine translation, but there isn't any that could perform advanced linguistic goals.

In addition, OpenAI scientists plan to create a robot that could solve a variety of games. Robots that could quickly learn to play multiple games will advance reinforcement learning technology, which is a segment of machine learning.

OpenAI researchers wrote that their projects and fundamental research have shared cores. Because of that, progress on one project could also benefit the others, they said.

Furthermore, the team expects to add new projects over time as they are only getting started. The details of each project may also change as researchers gain additional data.

Evolutionary Progress

Analyst Zeus Kerravala of ZK Research says the non-profit's plans can be thought of as "one small step for man, one giant step for robot-kind."

He tells Computerworld that a domestic droid that completes our housework or learns to play Monopoly won't change our lives "significantly," but it is a step for robots to be able to learn more tasks.

Professor Pedro Domingos of the University of Washington tells The Christian Science Monitor that OpenAI's plans to create a robot maid are not unique.

He says many other companies are working on the same thing, but it is actually quite difficult to engineer a robot that can perform multiple tasks required by housekeeping.

He predicts that OpenAI will take on the research in steps instead of a complete household robot.

"Things as simple as not bumping into objects on the floor are hard to engineer," adds Domingos.

Photo: Dan Taylor | Flickr

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