MIT's C-LEARN Helps Robots Transfer Learning To Other Robots
Robots are now able to teach each other new skills, which we hope will work out for the best.
The system is called C-LEARN, and it was developed by researchers at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL). Using C-LEARN, people who have no experience with computer programming can teach a robot how to perform a task—like dropping a flask into a bucket, or pulling a rod from a container—by providing it with some basic rules about the task, and allowing the robot to view a single demonstration of the task being completed.
Incredibly, a robot can then transfer this newly-acquired knowledge to another robot, even if the robot learning is physically different than the robot teaching. Eventually, the C-LEARN system could allow factories to utilize a host of different robot types, and not have to worry about programming each and every one of them individually. It could also help robots to quickly learn and teach new tasks in high pressure situations, such as when they’re busy exterminating the entire human species, or more practically, when they’re defusing bombs.
This reminds me of the talk between robots (TBR) feature discussed by Frederik Pohl in his 1954 short story The Midas Plague. In the story, Henry is a companion robot; these robots cooperate with each other, sharing information to better server their masters:
"Fine! Well, get started on the other things, then."
"Yes, sir," said Henry, and assumed the curious absent look of a robot talking on the TBR circuits - the Talk Between Robots radio - as it arranged the appointments for its master.
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