Researchers develop "robotic apprentices"
By Stuart Turton
Posted on 2 Sep 2008 at 10:31
University researchers have developed an artificial intelligence that can learn by watching "experts" perform a task.
The artificial intelligence was developed by Stanford University for use in robotic helicopters which learn to fly and perform stunts by watching "expert" helicopters perform the same tasks, rather than by having software engineers input every individual instruction.
The software was demonstrated on a shop-bought radio controlled helicopter, outfitted with Stanford's AI and gyroscopic instrumentation, allowing the software to constantly monitor its location in the air.
The researchers used helicopters as a test-bed because they need to constantly adapt to changing conditions to stay in the air, meaning that you can't simply record the actions of a test pilot and feed them into the software. To that end, they recorded dozens of test flights and fed it into the program which then analysed the ideal trajectory for each manoeuvre, in order to perform the task itself.
Then, rather than simply performing the task by rote it monitors the orientation, acceleration and spin of the helicopter to make decisions on how to react.
In the near term the team believes the software could be used in military observation helicopters searching out landmines in warzones.
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