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Robotics Education Science

Robot Hand Learns How To Learn From Babies 76

Posted by Zonk
from the everything-i-need-to-know-i-learned-in-the-comments dept.
jcasman writes "Wired's got a piece on building a better robotic hand at Stanford. The new robot is called Stair 1.0, and scientists are hoping to take a cue from human children for how to teach a robot to learn. 'When a computer fails at a task, it spouts an error message. Babies, on the other hand, just try again a different way, exploring the world by grabbing new objects -- shoving them into their mouths if possible -- to acquire additional data. This built-in drive to explore teaches us how to use our brains and bodies. Now a number of hand-focused roboticists are building machines with the same childlike motivation to explore, fail, and learn through their hands.'"
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Robot Hand Learns How To Learn From Babies

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  • patients with existing limbs need to learn how to use them all over again. I'm really hopful we will see a major leap in artifical limbs in the next 50 years
    • by snarkh (118018)
      patients with existing limbs need to learn how to use them all over again.

      I sure hope patients with existing limbs will not have to learn to use them all over again.

      I'm really hopful we will see a major leap in artifical limbs in the next 50 years

      Or at least a hop.
      • by timmarhy (659436)
        Thats how it currently works. they must attach the sensors to other nerves and they have to train themselfs how to use the limb.
      • by billcopc (196330)
        That has less to do with the limb and more to do with the nervous system.

        If we could plug the artificial limbs into the right nerves (and have it all calibrated), theoretically the new limb would be a drop-in replacement and Kenny could run like a cyborg the next day.
    • There are no major leaps, just small steps that eventually surpass the biggest of leaps.
  • by JetlagMk2 (876608) on Friday November 30, 2007 @05:51PM (#21538401)
    Am I the only one worried here?
  • About time! (Score:4, Funny)

    by sm62704 (957197) on Friday November 30, 2007 @05:53PM (#21538439) Journal
    'When a computer fails at a task, it spouts an error message. Babies, on the other hand, just try again a different way, exploring the world by grabbing new objects -- shoving them into their mouths if possible -- to acquire additional data

    Access gives me the most amusing error messages. "Error 3417: there is no message for this error" (the message is real, the number I pulled out of my ass).

    But thinking about it, a robot looking for better data might be a good idea, but a computer? That might worrry me.

    Don't forget that a computer, even one running a robot, is just an alectronic abacus, nothing like a human or any other animal's brain. The temptation is to anthropomorphise [wikipedia.org].

    -mcgrew
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by spun (1352)
      But a brain is more than likely, and to the best of our current scientific understanding, just a really, really complicated abacus.
      • by sm62704 (957197)
        No it isn't, and there are no studies that would suggest such a thing.
        • by spun (1352)
          Yes, it is, and there are plenty of studies that don't just suggest that, they flat out state it. In fact, there are no studies that refute that staement, and I challenge you to find even one peer reviewed study that shows evidence that the brain is nondeterministic. There are no structures in the brain small enough for quantum effects to matter. The brain is deterministic. Sorry if that contradicts any dumb ideas you might have had about free will or a soul, but the universe doesn't care about your hurt fe
          • by sm62704 (957197)
            Actually I don't believe that a soul has anything to do with thought, and I think that free will is an illusion. That can neither be proven nor disproven, either. Thinking is a chemical peocess; MSG or alchohol as well as many other substances (maybe even all substances) can alter your mood, thought, and perception.

            A Computer is just a binary abacus. It can't think. That's not to say that something will never be invented in the future that can; if someone discovers Asimov's positronics maybe they can think.
            • by spun (1352)
              Well we agree on the basics, I suppose. In fact, now I'm not sure what we disagree on. What qualitative differences do you see between a computer and a brain that would keep a computer from thinking?
              • by sm62704 (957197)
                Its archetecture. When someone starts talking about a "thinking machine" or about how computers should have rights or how computers will become powerful enough to think, I always ask "how many more beads to I have to string on my abacus before it becomes self-aware?"
                • by spun (1352)
                  A computer is Turing complete. [wikipedia.org] An abacus is not. Any problem that one Turing complete computational device can solve, any other can solve as well. Are you suggesting that the brain computes in a way that overturns sixty years of computability and information theory? Anything is possible, I suppose, but a premise like that needs more support than just, "Well that's what I think."
                  • by sm62704 (957197)
                    Thought and feeling are chemical processes. A computer can only simulate them.
                    • by spun (1352)
                      Ah, but if the simulation were accurate enough, would the internal qualia of the being so simulated be different from ours? How would we know? More importantly, how would it? If the physics of our world create the qualia of experience, then I think an accurate simulation would give rise to the same qualia.
                    • by sm62704 (957197)
                      Ah, but if the simulation were accurate enough, would the internal qualia of the being so simulated be different from ours?

                      Does a simulation of a hydrogen bomb, no matter how accurate, produce radiation? Will a flight simulator take you to Paris? Simulation is not reality.

                      How would we know?

                      This is what I worry about. We surely will, sooner or later, come up with a devoce that can fool humans into thinking it is sentient, and you'll have nuts calling for "machine rights".

                      More importantly, how would it?

                      That i
                    • by spun (1352)
                      That's a totally false analogy. The simulation of the atomic blast is not set up to interact with the real world. A simulation of a human mind would have to be. In fact it would have to be set up to interact in all the ways a human mind could, too be accurate. A mind's purpose is to interact with the world. With an atomic bomb simulation there is no feedback loop between sim and world. With an AI, there would have to be.

                      The thing is, the questions we are asking are not only unanswered, I think they are unan
                    • by sm62704 (957197)
                      Or I could be in a straitjacket in a rubber room imaginbing all this.

                      I think, therefore I am (I think). Am I?
    • by merreborn (853723)

      But thinking about it, a robot looking for better data might be a good idea, but a computer? That might worrry me.


      I don't know. I'd hate to see, say, an automobile assembly line robot accidentally skewer someone as part of its learning process. The most common application of robotics in the real world is for extremely dangerous industrial work, where learning by way of mistakes could very well be fatal.
      • Agreed, but of course this would never be used on a robot in such a situation. Those robots need no learning. They are repetitive things that should only vary when a human explicitly tells them to. This would be useful in creating a sort of base programming for a robot meant to walk, help elderly people, etc. You could do the base learning (i.e. putting things in your mouth) part in a lab to gain a nice template which you could copy to other robots. Follow this with a specialized learning period which
        • by sm62704 (957197)
          Even worse; how would the robot "learn" that when the old person stopped moving it was because it has stuck its appendage through the geezer's chest?
    • +++?????++ Out of Cheese Error. Redo From Start.

      +++ Divide By Cucumber Error. Please Reinstall Universe And Reboot +++
  • Related (Score:5, Interesting)

    by UbuntuDupe (970646) * on Friday November 30, 2007 @05:53PM (#21538441) Journal
    This reminded me of this video [youtube.com] that I favorited on youtube, in which a robot is "brought to life" and then "feels around" to model the world and itself, and then "figures out" how to walk.

    This seems really interesting and something I'd want to work on. Anyone know what I would need to learn and do in order to get involved on a theoretical or practical level?
    • Am I the only one who is seriously freaked out by that thing?

      - The speed is fairly impressive for that thing
      - With walking there is a large thud with each step
      - It's making somewhat alien noises
      - It's all twitchy

      Perhaps it's a case of uncanny valley, except not with trying to be human but trying to be an animal/headcrab.

      I would probably use a bat/crowbar on that thing, just too damn creepy...
      • by Tacvek (948259)

        Am I the only one who is seriously freaked out by that thing?

        - The speed is fairly impressive for that thing
        - With walking there is a large thud with each step
        - It's making somewhat alien noises
        - It's all twitchy

        Perhaps it's a case of uncanny valley, except not with trying to be human but trying to be an animal/headcrab.

        I would probably use a bat/crowbar on that thing, just too damn creepy...

        Bit too much HalfLife? On a more serious note, The self modeling system is highly interesting. However, all of the gaits shown in the video (especially those in the later part of the video) seem significantly less than ideal. I would find it much more interesting to see the same concept applied to a more normal leg layout, that is capable of more or less normal walking.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Stefanwulf (1032430)

      Anyone know what I would need to learn and do in order to get involved on a theoretical or practical level?

      The first thing I'd do is get a feel for the field. MIT's OpenCourseWare has some interesting stuff like Intro to Robotics [mit.edu]. I've actually also found wikipedia to be helpful in determining the areas of specialization within a field, and some of the basic jargon that has developed. There will be certain levels of math, programming, and possibly physics or electrical engineering knowledge that you'll

      • Thanks a lot for the links!

        I probably should have given a little background: I have a bachelor's in mechanical engineering and did some work toward a masters before dropping out. I remember the academic papers being very hard to follow even after all that schooling in in the subject area. (I was studying controls and the problem of closed-loop system identification, which seems to have a lot of overlap with what the robot in the video has to do: model a system while trying to manipulate it.)

        "When all you
  • I for one welcome out new robot baby overlords.

    Seriously though. If a robot could learn at even a tiny fraction of the rate that babies learn, that would be quite remarkable.
    • I for one welcome out new robot baby overlords.
      I'm not worried what our new baby robot overlords will do, in fact i'm not even worried what our adult robot overlords (our deaths will be fast - see: skynet) will do.

      I'm worried about the angsty teen robot overlord that doesn't really know their place in the world yet but still thinks they're god. That and forcing everyone to listen to crappy emo music.
  • This new device is fun on dates!
  • RobotCub is particularly interesting because all the design is being posted on their website, so anyone with a spare 200kEuro can build one. It's an EU-funded project, and it's good to see government money widening the pool of Open Source stuff - see www.robotcub.org [robotcub.org]
    • Interesting about the shadowrobot.com hand...

      I notice by the relative ratio of the length of the index finger to that of the ring finger that the hand is modelled on a male hand (the index digit is shorter than the ring digit). Have you done any studies on dexterity as to which configuration is better for manipulating objects?

      Thanks,
      -- Terry

      • All four fingers on the Shadow hand are the same length - we mount them at different offsets to get the staggered tip effect.

        In general, we copied nature where possible, but sometimes engineering practicalities overruled us.

        So there's a curl on the little finger, but the palm itself is rigid. Making the palm flexible implies a lot more connectors on the electronics...

      • by blincoln (592401)
        I notice by the relative ratio of the length of the index finger to that of the ring finger that the hand is modelled on a male hand (the index digit is shorter than the ring digit).

        On my left hand, the index finger is shorter than the ring finger. On my right hand, the ring finger is shorter than the index finger. The index fingers of both hands are the same length. Does that make me a hermaphrodite?
  • Old News (Score:2, Informative)

    by Agilus (471376)
    Seven years ago, when I started grad school at UMass Amherst, they were talking about this stuff in the robotics lab. This is hardly new stuff.

    One of the ideas I got out of their talk about their research was that babies start using their muscles gradually, with only a few degrees of motion to start, and moving up from there. For instance, you'll notice that when a baby starts using his hands, he just grabs things for a while. There is no fine grained control of the fingers, and even the control necessar
    • Still, I'm surprised we aren't reading more about robots (or software) that rely on procedural evaluations of actions and surroundings and "try" alternative paths to a goal. It seems to me that this should simply be the obvious way forward!
    • by inKubus (199753)
      I have a five month old and I've been observing his progress since birth. It is quite interesting how he learns. First of all, you have to understand that long before a baby is born it is moving around in the dark, learning muscle control (feedback loop). When it is born, the senses of touch, smell, hearing and sight are already there and developed. The baby just doesn't know what to make of the stimuli. Learning is when the baby starts associating one or more of these inputs with satisfying it's needs
  • Not quite sure why it's a better robot Hand - Barrett have been around for some time, and their three-fingered system is good, but it's an interesting gripper. The people in the article are the customers, not the hand developers. Still, interesting research is interesting research ObDisclaimer - Shadow does five-fingered hands...
  • by Nerdposeur (910128) on Friday November 30, 2007 @06:29PM (#21538829) Journal
    ...to welcome our drooling, pooping robot overlords.
  • I did not RTFA, but I read the magazine version. The title and summary are somewhat misleading. The robot does not learn from babies, but learns like them. I'm pretty sure no infantile humans were involved in its programming. Also, the Stair 2.0 is the new one the article talks about. The Stair 1.0 is at least two years old.
  • I heard that programmers are getting younger, but this is getting ridiculous.
  • This is not just "better robot arm". Here is other example of this kind. http://www.iirobotics.com/bot-news/general/new-intuitive-ways-to-teach-a-bot!-20070605938.html [iirobotics.com]
    This is just another way to teach robot by having direct interaction between the robot and the instructor. Robot yet still needs to be monitored closely by human and it does not do all that in its own. It still needs human's help. robot that learns like baby could be useful if it does something already well. maybe it can learn to create somet
  • They start learning how to move hands, then lift things and put them in their proper place and that's useful enough. Eventually they ask "am I alive?" Then you're screwed, try to eradicate them and you end up forced into exile to wander the galaxy in a flotilla of old ships that are always on the verge of falling apart.

    Yea I know... nobody really cares, but that happens to be the first thing I thought of... been playing too much Mass Effect [masseffect.com]

  • I for one welcome our new robo^H^H^H^Hbaby over^H^H^H^H.

    Oh, never fu^Hricking mind.

  • Interesting digression, Science Friday just had a piece on rewiring nerves for amputees.

        http://www.sciencefriday.com/program/archives/200711301 [sciencefriday.com]

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