Basil Reification Robot

The Gundersons want a robot that can solve simple tasks, like asking the bartender for a beer and then bringing it back to the table. To do this, they think that robots must solve the kind of problem that humans do instinctively when dealing with the world.


(Basil robot with the Gundersons)

The Gundersons call this process "reification," a term they borrowed from philosophy, meaning to mistake an abstract idea for a real thing. They believed they could mathematically model it. If they could program a robot to symbolically identify objects by focusing on just a few key attributes, like basic shapes and sizes, and ignore everything else just as people do the machine would be much more adept at navigating its complex and dynamic world. Furthermore, since the robot would be able to recognize objects in his surroundings, the Gundersons could teach it basic attributes of these objects so it didn't see them as general obstacles or targets, but as abstract concepts like people and chairs abstract concepts that computers are good at reasoning about. Finally, such a robot would be able to store in its memory a basic symbolic mock-up of what these objects look like and where they're located so it wouldn't have to continuously rebuild its concept of the world every time it moved or interacted with it.

The key is to give the robot a way to identify and work with classes of objects like chairs. They tried the usual approaches - sketching 3D models of chairs and uploading them to Basil - and failed. Then, the light dawned.

The problem, they discovered, was the vagaries of the image captured by the sonars never looked like the perfectly designed chair model so, says Louise, they decided, "Why don't we just have the robot record what it sees?" They instructed him to take sonar image after sonar image of a wooden lab chair, capturing how it appeared from every angle. Then they spent days poring over the data, identifying basic characteristic patterns, like how the chair is waist high and always has legs and a straight back basic patterns Basil could use to determine whether a given object is a wooden chair.

Then, with the work finished this past June, they wheeled a chair in front of Basil and asked him what he saw. Using the chipper dialogue they'd programmed, he announced, "Ooh, I see a wooden chair."

So what does this mean for you, the average human? If this problem can be solved in general, it will be a huge step away from robots who can solve a few pre-programmed problems to robots able to accept commands and then figure out what to do on their own.

If this can be done, robots like Rosie from the Jetsons and Flexible Frank from Robert Heinlein's 1956 novel The Door Into Summer may be with us sooner rather than never.

Read this very enjoyable source article at Denver Westwood News: The Gundersons get us ready for Basil, the robot of our dreams.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 12/22/2008)

Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.

| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |

Would you like to contribute a story tip? It's easy:
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add it here.

Comment/Join discussion ( 1 )

Related News Stories - (" Robotics ")

When Computers Develop Their Own Language, Will They Talk To Us?
'The curious absent look of a robot talking on the TBR circuits - the Talk Between Robots radio...' - Frederik Pohl, 1954.

Robot Strolls Field, Examines EVERY Plant
'The great machines that did the work ... required but a few dozen men to cultivate an entire county.' - John W. Campbell

TITAN-III Spider Robot Is WAY Too Quick (Video)
'My little friends can find you wherever you go!' - Michael Crichton, 1984.

Bill Gates Suggests Tax On Robots
'A worker replaced by a nubot that 'appears or pretends to be human' had to be compensated...'- John Twelve Hawks, 2014.

 

Google
  Web TechNovelgy.com   

Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!) is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for the Invention Category that interests you, the Glossary, the Invention Timeline, or see what's New.

 

 

 

 

 

Current News

PassivDom 3D Printed House - What If You Could Live Anywhere?
'The houses are prefabricated units...'

Breakthrough In Manufacture Of Red Blood Cells
This blood's for you!

Caihong Solar-Powered Drone 'Atmospheric Satellite'
'... placed in the wings of a plane to generate power from the light falling on that surface.'

NASA Wants Low Earth Orbit Wifi
'This was the center of Interplanetary Communications.'

Is Genetic Testing At Businesses A Bad Idea?
It's not a topic that fares well in science fiction movies-

Wearable Smart Jacket
He pressed the button in his sleeve communicator and snapped: 'Action stations!'

Store One Bit On One Atom
'...each individual molecule has a meaning.'

Fluorescent Bacteria Fashion
'The racks of gowns itched and quivered, their colors running into blurred pools.'

Keith Laumer's Bolo Autonomous Tanks Right On Schedule
'I cannot lie idle under attack.'

When Computers Develop Their Own Language, Will They Talk To Us?
'The curious absent look of a robot talking on the TBR circuits - the Talk Between Robots radio...'

LipNet Reads Lips - Until Disconnected, That Is
'We'd have to cut his higher brain functions... I'm not sure what [HAL} would think about that.'

Eterni.me - To Skype With The Dead
'Nothing... left of Jeserac but a galaxy of electrons frozen in the heart of a crystal.'

Wearable MRI Is Former Occulus/Facebook Exec's New Project
'Your cephalochromoscope... that you always turn on and play when you get home...'

Ford Stratasys Infinte Build 3D Printer
'He proudly indicated his Buick... Almost as good as the original it was printed from...'

The Space Suit As Personal Spaceship
'Darn clever, these suits...'

Dune Fans! Your God Emperor Is Ready
'If one held a sandtrout in the hand, smoothing it over your skin, it formed a living glove.'

More SF in the News Stories

More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise |
Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.