A world wide web for robots to learn from each other and share information is being unveiled for the first time. The eventual aim of the system is that both robots and humans will be able to upload information to the cloud-based database, which would act as a kind of common brain for machines.
This demonstration is the culmination of a four-year project, funded by the European Union. The system has been developed by research scientists from Philips and five European universities, including Eindhoven in the Netherlands.
A Hive Mind for Robots
“At its core, RoboEarth is a world wide web for robots: a giant network and database repository where robots can share information and learn from each other,” said René van de Molengraft, the RoboEarth project leader.
Right now, the problem is that robots are often developed for one specific task. “Everyday changes that happen all the time in our environment make all the programmed actions unusable,” he said. The aim of the system is to create a kind of ever-changing common brain for robots. “A task like opening a box of pills can be shared on RoboEarth, so other robots can also do it without having to be programmed for that specific type of box,” he added.
Additionally, the cloud-based system will also mean that some of the robot’s computing or thinking tasks can be offloaded, meaning that a robot wouldn’t need so much onboard computing or battery power.
Scientists behind RoboEarth plan to put it through its paces at Eindhoven University in a mocked-up hospital room on 16 January 2014. Four robots were selected to test the system in a public demonstration.
These robots will use RoboEarth as a knowledge base, communication medium, and computational resource to offload some of their heavy computation. They will “work collaboratively” to help patients. One robot will upload a map of the room, so that others can find their way around it. Others will use the system to complete a series of tasks, including serving drinks to patients.
It is already possible to buy robot vacuum cleaners, robots that wash the windows and robot lawnmowers. More humanoid robots, able to assist disabled or elderly people, are now being developed. Robot assistants are likely to be available in homes within 10 years, experts believe.
Author James Barrat, who has written about the dangers of robots gaining their own intelligence in his book Our Final Invention: Artificial Intelligence and the End of the Human Era (2013), thinks there needs to be safeguards: “In the short term, RoboEarth adds security by building in a single point of failure for all participating robots,” he said. “In the longer term, watch out when any of the nodes can evolve or otherwise improve their own software. The consequences of sharing that capability with the central ‘mind’ should be explored before it happens.”
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Tomorrow, after four years of research, RoboEarth will be showcasing a demonstration that includes four robots collaboratively working together to help patients in a hospital. Do not miss this great event!
Date and time: January 16, 2014, 14:45~
Location: Eindhoven University of Technology, Netherlands (http://goo.gl/maps/PYwxA)
Register (mandatory) for free at http://goo.gl/pezjRB
For a detailed information on the schedule and the location click here.