Robots are learning how to accomplish more than simply moving from place to place or maybe vacuuming a floor.
In fact, researchers at the University of Maryland recently used videos to teach a robot how to make salads.
The robot, named Julia (after Julia Child), learned each step of the salad making process after watching YouTube videos of people completing those same steps. It was then able to emulate those steps itself, though not without some difficulty. In certain areas, most notably pouring the dressing there were challenges.
And while making a salad might not seem like the most exciting or innovative use of robot technology, the team is hopeful this is just the first step. It’s part of a process of teaching robots in a way that might someday benefit all of society. Yiannis Aloimonos, a computer science professor at the university, told Time:
“If you can work in the kitchen with your hands and do things, basically you can do almost anything else.”
So, while today Julia is focused on learning the fine art of salad making, tomorrow it could be learning to make other foods using the same methods. The robot could eventually learn how to do other tasks like moving boxes on a factory floor or stocking shelves at a store.
The technology is still in its early stages. Robots aren’t in the process of taking over jobs on any sort of large scale at the moment. However, the team is hopeful that in the future this technology might enable robots to become part of the workplaces. Cornelia Fermüller, a research scientist at the university, told Time:
“We would like to create tools so that eventually robots can really work together with humans in different settings, for examples in a working place or help in the kitchen.”
It’s unlikely that robots will really take over human jobs on a large scale. Even if and when they do make their way into workplaces, they’re still likely to need supervision and/or operators. But their ability to do manual labor and simple tasks could certainly free up some human workers for more complicated or thoughtful types work.
Image: University of Maryland