A world wide web for robots? It sounds like a crazy idea but it could mean that once a task is learned any robot can find out how to do it just by asking RoboEarth.
RoboEarth is an Internet facility intended to make "life" easy for robots. You can think of it as the web for robots. Just as you look up something you want to know about on the web, a robot can do the same using RoboEarth, but in addition it will routinely upload data about what it is doing and where it is.
If you are a fan of the Terminator movies or TV series you might well be thinking "SkyNet" and worrying about robots getting smart and taking over. This might be a worry for the future but at the moment RoboEarth is just a knowledge base and it doesn't have any central intelligence, artificial or otherwise.
What it is really good about this approach, however, is that a robot if a robot learns how to complete a task it can share this knowledge with other robots trying to complete the same task. For example, if a robot is trying to serve a drink or assemble a device it might well need human intervention to identify tables, chairs etc., or components. It might need help in working out what needs to be moved from one location to another. By uploading the taught data to RoboEarth, the training can be shared and other robots can do the job without needing the human trainer. The system also aims to allow for differences in robot performance so that different models or ages of hardware can still make use of the recipes.
RoboEarth also provides maps of the local environment suitable for robots to navigate and recognise features such as doorways, beds and so on.
Although the project (funded by the European Union) has been running for a year, it reached a landmark recently when a robot AMIGO downloaded the instructions necessary to deliver a drink to a patient. You can see its slow progress in the video below (hint: turn the sound down).
If you are interested in joining in, there is a full description of the RoboEarth language, a full specification of the platform and some sample data at the main website.
An obvious addition would be a Kinect 3D map upload/download facility. Imagine the day that a robot could download a 3D map of a room it had never visited and instantly notice and upload any changes. I wonder where that might lead?
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