It wasn’t that long ago that ChatGPT-like programs were the things of distant future science fiction. In less than two years, they went from fairytales to tools that are so common that we take them for granted.
Are robots about to make that same transition?
Over the course of a few days, we see several sudden advances that make teaching robots seem simpler than we had previously thought possible.
The open-source @ALOHA robot is less than $40,000 dollars, has two arms, and navigates ordinary home and office space like a science fiction robot. It can be used as a telepresence device with a human operator and learn from that how to accomplish some tasks autonomously. It has learned a small collection of very different real-world tasks with surprisingly few iterations.
Figure Robotics showed a demo of their human-looking robot making coffee. While the demo itself doesn’t look that impressive, the training behind it is. Their robot is being trained from raw video with the suggestion that the world of YouTube DIY videos could be the robotic training data of the future.
Robotic Systems Lab in Zurich demonstrated a curiosity-driven robot using a simulated (virtual) environment to learn new skills and then quickly used those skills in the physical world.
While none of these behaviors may seem that impressive, they are each harder than they seem, and each learned more easily than we would have thought possible.
How big a step is for real robots to be commonplace in our homes and offices?