It may seem like a trivial task but over the past few years, scientists working in Autodesk’s AI Lab out in San Francisco have been teaching robots to play with toys. This company is also responsible for AutoCAD and other 3D Design software.
Researchers have installed advanced artificial intelligence systems into their robot, which they have started to call “Brickbot”, giving it the ability to learn and stack LEGO blocks the same way a child would go about the task. While this may sound easy, having a robot teach itself a task it a monumental feat.
“It’s a complex challenge,” said an Autodesk spokesperson to the publication ZDNet. “The project … relies on sensor data and machine learning to enable a robot to infer what’s going on in its environment, then adapt on the fly to accomplish an assigned task.” (https://zd.net/2PiPm5l)
As of now, most robots that enter the industrial sector are built to follow a strict set of rules and protocols. Programming assembly line robots is a daunting task and can only be handled by highly trained professionals. Collaborative robots have recently been introduced to the shop floor to help factory employees take on heavy workloads, but working together with robots is still a task best suited for specialists with proper training.
Although, many are frightened or left uncomfortable by the idea of robots that are able to learn there’s no denying that this technology would drastically reduce the cost of automated technology. This is mainly because an expensive programmer wouldn’t need to come to the facility, only the first installation team would be required.
The project certainly took a lot of legwork on behalf of the researchers who began the process by installing a number of cameras and sensors to a pair of robotic arms. They then added neural networks that enable the robots to intelligently process information and respond with different behaviors based on their environment.
“By starting with plastic bricks, we’ve been able to keep the project manageable while still having the freedom to experiment from the design stage all the way to a finished product,” said Yotto Koga, a software architect with a PhD in robotics. “Now we’re close to taking the next step. We’re planning to work closely with a manufacturing customer and a construction customer to see how the Brickbot technology can be applied in the real world.” (https://zd.net/2PiPm5l)
The manufacturing industry is changing rapidly thanks to the rate of innovation in robotics. While many fear what that means for their jobs, small business owners are excited at the prospect of having affordable technology that will allow them to accomplish orders they would have never been able to handle. Only time will tell to see if robots and humans will be able to work together as this technology quickly advances. For more on automation and robotics in the industrial sector be sure to keep checking back with us here at Manufacturing Talk Radio.