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 ")

Maintain Your Megastructure
Megastructures have repair robots, which have repair robots, ad infinitum.

Humanoid Robot's Muscles Biomimic Ours
'It is remarkable that the long leverages of their machines are in most cases actuated by a sort of sham musculature...' HG Wells, 1898.

Animatronic Robotic Baby Exposed
'The birth of Machine, my robot child...' - Henry Slesar, 1958.

China Deploys Robot Traffic Police
'The robot came up smooth and fast as a rocket...' - Harry Harrison, 1958.

 

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

Zephyr Solar-Electric Stratospheric Drone
'The planes flew continuously, twenty-four hours a day...'

Robot Hummingbird Hovers Biomimetically
'With a buzz... it started out on its journey.'

Harvest Water From Air With Sunlight
'The atmosphere yielded its moisture with reluctance.'

Capitalist Big Brother Co-Opts Regular Big Brother
'It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time.'

A Floating Cosmodrome
'...a single perfectly level platform, which rose so high above the water that it was not splashed by the waves.'

First Artificial Memory Formed In Animals
'Is an extra-factual memory that convincing?' Quail asked.

Maintain Your Megastructure
Megastructures have repair robots, which have repair robots, ad infinitum.

Venezuelans Teaching Your Self-Driving Car
‘She wouldn't stop until Antar had told her everything he knew...’

Robothread Robotic Worms Crawling Through Your Brain
Perfect for clot-busting in the human brain. No Raquel Welch and no lasers, though.

Vantablack BMW X6 Is Douglas Adams Approved
'It's so... black!' said Ford Prefect.

Humanoid Robot's Muscles Biomimic Ours
'It is remarkable that the long leverages of their machines are in most cases actuated by a sort of sham musculature...'

Animatronic Robotic Baby Exposed
'The birth of Machine, my robot child...'

Beijing HaiDiLao Robotic Hotpot Restaurant Now Flavored By Artificial Intelligence
'Kantos Kan led me to one of these gorgeous eating places where we were served entirely by mechanical apparatus.'

Plants of the Future - What Should They Be Like
'He almost choked in his astonishment. Mashed potatoes and brown gravy!'

China Deploys Robot Traffic Police
'The robot came up smooth and fast as a rocket...'

Better Than Dune Chromoplastic? This Guy Might Have Done It
'But when Old Father Sun departs, the chromoplastic reverts to transparency in the dark.'

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.