What do you do if you want to learn how to cook up some pancakes? First, you might do a quick online search for “how to cook pancakes”. Once you’ve read through the basic process, you’ll have a pretty good understanding of how things are done, but you might want to have your friend, who is an expert pancake flipper, show you a few things. After you’ve read the basic instructions and watched an expert, you’re going to want to go through the motions until you get it right. Put all of this information together and you now have the ability to make one mean pancake.
The process mentioned above is exactly how RoboHow intends to teach robots to carry out basic human tasks.
The RoboHow project started in 2012, and is combined effort among 9 different universities and institutions from across Europe. Groups from Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Netherlands, Sweden, and Switzerland are all involved in the project. RoboHow’s main objective is to enable robots to carry out basic human activities in both home and working environments through “web-enabled and experience-based learning as well as by observing humans”.
Robots will be able to access instructions online and load them into their knowledge base; however, that information alone will not be enough for the robot to start performing a task. So the robots will take the information they’ve acquired from the database and use it in conjunction with instructional videos found online, through tracked demonstrations performed by humans, and motion learning. The robots will take the information from all of these different sources and combine them to be able to carry out the desired task. Essentially, the project looks to teach robots how to do things in the same way that people learn to do things.
When humans learn how to do something, it’s typically a combination of instruction, observation, and practice. Here’s RoboHow’s video demonstrating how a robot has learned to flip up some flapjacks.