The Everyday Robot Project has just been announced, the second attempt by Alphabet to get involved in robotics after a number of failed acquisitions.
What is the Everyday Robot Project, then?
It is Alphabet’s attempt to crate a breed of robots that have minds of their own. Their goal is to infuse their robots with AI, resulting in a robot that will no longer need to rely solely on a set of hard-coded instructions; instead, it can be taught how to do something and learn new tasks purely through practice.
According to Hans Peter Brondmo, Chief Robot Whisperer for Alphabet X, the robots would observe human doing tasks and learn from them, as well as from shared experiences.
These robots are a long way off but Alphabet has the ultimate vision of making them capable of autonomous operation in homes and in offices, making robots “as helpful to people in the physical world as computers are in the virtual world.”
So far, Alphabet has tested the robots with basic human tasks – sorting garbage into recycling, compost and landfill – the kind of job anyone would gladly hand over to someone else! Using a combination of reinforcement learning, collaborative learning, and simulation, the robots learn, over time, how to do it and Google says that this is proof that robots can practice and learn new tasks.
Now they want to take it to the next level by applying what the robot learned in that task to another one, without having to write a whole heap more code or rebuild the robot. They do say that it could be an impossible task but, hey, if we don’t try, we don’t know.
If Alphabet is successful, their robot could go head to head with Amazon’s consumer robot – a mobile version of the Alexa voice assistant named Vesta, currently in development.
I say bring it on – who doesn’t want to see a robot battle between two of the biggest names in the world?