The robotics division of the Toyota Research Institute is using VR headsets to train robots to help perform and learn domestic actions. The aim is to develop a line of robots that assist humans in their homes, with a focus on allowing older generations to live longer in their own homes and improve quality of life.
The robots, which look frighteningly like an early version Wall-E, can move around a house and learn new domestic tasks from a human teacher. Senior Manager at TRI, Jeremy Ma, explained that the emphasis is on teaching the robots lots of tasks in the environment, not programming them select, specific tasks. “We teach the robot parameters that are part of a set of safe behaviors – and that’s robust to a changing environment.”
In order to do this, Toyota is using VR headsets to facilitate the process. Through VR, users can control the robot, allowing them to easily perform actions as the robot and therefore teach it new activities and tasks. “The teacher can see a model of the robot as well as the live data from the robot itself,” said Ma. “It uses that information to teach behaviors that are linked to things in the environment.”
The VR application has an interface with buttons that prompt the robot to do actions like grasp, place and pull. When one of the robots learns a new activity, it can then pass that info onto a shared system for the other robots to use, which Toyota calls ‘fleet learning’.
Importantly, TIR Senior Manager Dan Helmick did stress that this is all just research-based for now, and not remotely close to being implemented on a consumer level. “Our robots are research prototypes, not product concepts.”
What do you think of these new Wall-E proto- sorry, domestic robot prototypes? I’m personally all for them. Let us know in the comments below.