Robots that learn

The University of Massachusetts, Amherst is working on a robot that can learn to use unfamiliar objects. According to MIT’s Technology Review, UMass’s Robot, called the UMass Mobile Manipulator, or UMan, ‘sees’ an object with the help of a Web cam and then pushes it around to see how it moves, identifying and recording the objects’ parts and joints.

Doctoral student Dov Katz is working on the UMan along with computer science professor Oliver Brock, Katz told the review that the UMan learns similarly to how a baby does, moving around the world, picking things up and playing with them to see how they work. He didn’t say whether or not the UMan also tries to put everything in its mouth.

The researchers at UMass believe that enabling robots to adapt to unstructured environments will allow them to perform more “meaningful” work such as exploring new planets and helping around the house.