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Teaching robots to understand their world through basic motor skills



Robots are great at doing what they’re told. But sometimes inputting that information into a system is a far more complex process than the task we’re asking them to execute. That’s part of the reason they’re best suited for simple/repetitive jobs.

A team of researchers at Brown University and MIT is working to develop a system in which robots can plan tasks by developing abstract concepts of real-world objects and ideas based on motor skills. With this system, the robots can perform complex tasks without getting bogged down in the minutia required to complete them.

The researchers programmed a two-armed robot (Anathema Device or “Ana”) to manipulate objects in a room — opening and closing a cupboard and a cooler, flipping on a light switch and picking up a bottle. While performing the tasks, the robot was taking in its surroundings and processing information through algorithms developed by the researchers.