Alphabet X’s moonshot division, formerly Google X, has announced a new project, called Everyday Robot, which teaches robots how to perform everyday tasks. The robots can use cameras and advanced machine learning algorithms to see and learn from their surroundings without needing to be coded for every individual movement.
Alphabet X’s robots can learn to sort trash with little to no mistake. (Image Credit: Everyday Robots)
The robots collect and use data from its sensors to understand the surrounding it’s in, which includes what it’s seeing, hearing, and where it is. This allows the robot to safely perform everyday tasks with people in workplace environments.
Currently, the team is experimenting with robots that can be useful in workplace environments. Their prototypes are focusing on learning how to sort garbage. It can be quite difficult to teach robots something as simple as grabbing an object like humans can. Alphabet X’s Everyday Robot practices the art of grabbing an object in both the physical and virtual worlds. The laboratory has an area, like a “playpen,” where close to 30 robots are supervised by humans and spend the day sorting garbage into trays for compost, landfill, and recycling.
During the night time, Everyday Robot uses virtual robots to practice grabbing objects in simulated buildings. The collected data is then combined with real-word data. This data is then sent to the robots system in an update once every one or two weeks.
Experimentation goes underway where a robot navigates in an office-like setting. (Image Credit: Everyday Robots)
According to Alphabet X’s blog post, robots are starting to be pretty efficient when it comes to sorting trash. Apparently, they make less than 5% of mistakes when sorting trash into containers. In comparison, humans put 20% of trash into the wrong place. Engineers hope the robots will be able to assist in other complex tasks, like helping elderly people in their homes, which could be just a few years away.
Even though the robots can perform exceptionally well at their tasks, they’re not ready to replace human workers at garbage recycling plants just yet. During a demonstration, one robot attempted to grab a bowl in front of it but ended up grabbing the air instead, and because it thought it grasped the bowl, it attempted to put it down.
Have a story tip? Message me at: cabe(at)element14(dot)com