Kinect@home is a Swedish program that encourages humans to help robots in identifying common household objects. The intent is to build a library of objects that robots can consult as they maneuver around your house.
(Kinect at Home site welcome video)
Our vision is making and sharing 3D models of the real world as easy as making a Youtube video while helping science. Kinect@Home is three people: Alper Aydemir, Rasmus Göransson and Prof. Patric Jensfelt. Alper and Patric started it as a robotics research project at CAS Royal Institute of Technology - Sweden, with the aim of advancing robotics research while being useful to everyday people.
Kinect@home needs your help! Simply use their software, which allows them to collect your scans of common objects in your home. One day, computers everywhere will use your uploaded models to find their way around your home.
Co-ordinator Alper Aydemir said: "Factory floors can be custom built and the tools the robots will use can be known precisely in minute detail. This is not the case with everyday living spaces and objects."
While humans have no trouble recognising objects such as a tea mug even if it is a different colour, shape and size to those they have seen before, robots struggle to complete such a mundane task.
"One of the best ways for robots to accomplish all these tasks is to make them learn how to recognise a sofa, a chair, or a refrigerator by feeding them lots of data," Mr Aydemir told the BBC.
In his 1995 novel The Calcutta Chromosome, Amitav Ghosh writes about Anton, whose day job is to satisfy the curiosity of an artificial intelligence system called Ava, which bombarded him with questions about pictures of common household objects:
She wouldn't stop until Antar had told her everything he knew about whatever it was that she was playing with on her screen… Once she'd wrung the last meaningless detail out of him, she'd give the object on her screen a final spin, with a bizarrely human smugness, before propelling it into horizonless limbo of her memory.
(Read more about Ava the AI)
An older generation of sf fans might also recall the vision of the future described in The Velvet Glove, a 1956 short story by Harry Harrison. One of the few jobs still available to humans is that of helper - someone who assists robots in identifying unclassifiable objects:
"... whenever a robot finds something it can't identify straight off... it puts whatever it is in the hopper outside your window. You give it a good look, check the list for the proper category if you're not sure, then press the right button and in she goes." An hour passed before he had his first identification to make. A robot stopped in mid-dump, ground its gears a moment, and then dropped a dead cat into Carl's hopper... Something heavy had dropped on the cat, reducing the lower part of its body to paper-thinness.