Using the power of technology to pick up a new skill is really nothing new. How many times have you needed to look up how to tie a tie or how to write a check, because no one teaches this stuff IRL anymore, man.
But now the robots are on to us. They're starting to use our vast repositories of information, i.e. YouTube, to learn how to complete daily human tasks.
No, robots are not learning how to do the "Gangnam Style" dance, although I'm sure we'll be seeing that in the future. Researchers at the University of Maryland, funded by DARPA's Mathematics of Sensing, Exploitation, and Execution program, are showing robots cooking videos on YouTube to study if they can recognize, grab and use the correct kitchen utensils or ingredients as shown on screen. Taking it one step further, the researchers are also looking at whether or not the robots can then use the objects to accurately perform the task they see in the video and without any additional human input or programming. This is all a part of an effort to study how robots interpret and then respond to visual data.
"The MSEE program initially focused on sensing, which involves perception and understanding of what's happening in a visual scene, not simply recognizing and identifying objects," said Reza Ghanadan, program manager in DARPA's Defense Sciences Offices, in a statement. "We've now taken the next step to execution, where a robot processes visual cues through a manipulation action-grammar module and translates them into actions."
Now I just want to know what videos the robots were watching. Did the researchers go easy on the bots by having them follow along with The Simple Cooking Channel? Or maybe they went crazy and had them mimic some videos from My Drunk Kitchen? Or perhaps a viewing of Epic Meal Time was on the menu? However, that probably would have made the robots explode.
Also, are these robots able to cater events? Asking for a friend.
But back to the research. The researchers have also been looking at not only how robots take in information but also share it with other robots. We'll be able to coordinate a Top Chef: Robot Edition before you know it.
Of course, having robots cooking our meals isn't a far cry from all of the smart kitchen technology popping up in our homes recently or even electric-powered appliances, if you think about it. Robots taking over our cooking duties, not to mention any other human duties we can train them to do, is pretty much inevitable at this point.