Robots Can Learn by Watching YouTube Videos

Robots Can Learn by Watching YouTube Videos

There’s a good chance that you’ve used YouTube videos to learn new skills at some point. Online videos offer pointers for everything from writing to cooking to using certain types of tools. Now, there’s a new base of users that can benefit from the information in YouTube videos. And they aren’t even human.

Researchers from the University of Maryland and the Australian research center NICTA have come up with a way to teach robots how to use tools by watching YouTube videos. The researchers recently published (PDF) a paper on their achievements and will present it later this month at the annual conference of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence.

The demonstration uses a type of artificial intelligence called deep learning. Deep learning utilizes training systems called artificial neuron networks. These systems can take audio, images and other inputs and present them as information that robots can process and respond to. For example, they could be able to identify how a hand is grasping an item or recognize specific objects.

To train the robot in this particular study, researchers selected data from 88 different YouTube videos of people cooking. Then they generated commands that a robot could execute based on that data.

In their report, the researchers concluded:

“We believe this preliminary integrated system raises hope towards a fully intelligent robot for manipulation tasks that can automatically enrich its own knowledge resource by “watching” recordings from the World Wide Web.”

Having robots that can learn and process information like humans do might seem a little sci-fi. But people are making it into a reality. And it has the potential to actually impact a variety of small businesses and industries.

The ability to teach simple tasks to machines could save time and money and help businesses adapt. However, the technology is still in the research stage. So it will be interesting to see if and how it develops into something usable for businesses.

Robot Photo via Shutterstock, Remix


Annie Pilon Annie Pilon is a Senior Staff Writer for Small Business Trends, covering entrepreneur profiles, interviews, feature stories, community news and in-depth, expert-based guides. When she’s not writing she can be found exploring all that her home state of Michigan has to offer.

6 Reactions
  1. Annie, I had no idea. I can only imagine the good it will do for robots in our homes and in small business. Thanks

  2. Hope they keep a tight leash on what YouTube videos they let the robots get a hold of. Otherwise these robots will learn a lot of worthless crap.