Google is creating AI-powered robots that navigate without human intervention—a prerequisite to being useful in the real world.
Within 10 minutes of its birth, a baby fawn is able to stand. Within seven hours, it is able to walk. Between those two milestones, it engages in a highly adorable, highly frenetic flailing of limbs to figure it all out.
That’s the idea behind AI-powered robotics. While autonomous robots, like self-driving cars, are already a familiar concept, autonomously learning robots are still just an aspiration. Existing reinforcement-learning algorithms that allow robots to learn movements through trial and error still rely heavily on human intervention. Every time the robot falls down or walks out of its training environment, it needs someone to pick it up and set it back to the right position.
Now a new study from researchers at Google has made an important advancement toward robots that can learn to navigate without this help. Within a few hours, relying purely on tweaks to current state-of-the-art algorithms, they successfully got a four-legged robot to learn to walk forward and backward, and turn left and right, completely on its own.