'RoboEarth' Is World Wide Web For Robots: Machines Will Be Able To Share Information And Learn From Each Other

By Ben Wolford on January 15, 2014 3:41 PM EST

Robot Internet
A demonstration of the first World Wide Web for robots will take place in the Netherlands this week. (Photo: RoboEarth)

Remember I, Robot? We're getting close. Scientists in The Netherlands have created a new World Wide Web — for robots. It's called RoboEarth, and the corporate-sponsored collaborators who developed it describe it simply as "a World Wide Web for Robots." After four years of research, the team has arranged to host its first public demonstration of the technology: on Thursday in The Netherlands, they'll set four robots loose in a hospital under staged conditions. These robots will be "collaboratively working together to help patients in a hospital," RoboEarth said on its blog. "These robots will use RoboEarth as a knowledge base, communication medium, and computational resource to offload some of their heavy computation."

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The robot web uses cloud technology to store data in remote servers, which are then shared with other robots that are connected to the cloud. The Telegraph described some examples: If one robot learns the configuration of a room, the other robots would instantly know it. It would also work for things like facial recognition. If one robot learns a hospital nurse's face, all the robots would recognize the nurse, too. "Why are thousands of systems solving the same essential problems over and over again ... ?" the RoboEarth developers ask.

The technology to teach robots to learn is being developed everywhere. MIT scientists have taught robots to fold laundry, fly model helicopters, and tie sutures solely from human observation. The Japanese space agency recently launched a companion robot up into space, sending it to the International Space Station to demonstrate how a machine can learn to converse naturally with people. This robot learned baby talk. Another learned common sense by looking at pictures.

But all of these machines have been learning in a vacuum. They've demonstrated the ability to learn without sharing the knowledge. "The aim of RoboEarth is to use the Internet to create a giant open source network database that can be accessed and continually updated by robots around the world," the developers said. Eventually, they hope to put the technology to work in businesses and other settings. So far the group — based at the Eindhoven University of Technology in The Netherlands and which counts Philips among its sponsors — has published 14 journal articles and aims to standardize the concept globally.

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